A congressional hearing led by Rep. Elton Gallegly quickly turned partisan and combative on Tuesday, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to drive a wedge between African-Americans and Latinos over illegal immigration.
Some lawmakers are trying "to pit black against brown" by essentially arguing that illegal immigration is the reason minority communities still struggle nearly 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. led a landmark civil rights march on Washington, said Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"This is a very sensitive subject," said Conyers, who called the idea of dividing minority groups "abhorrent and repulsive."
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, charged that the hearing was an attempt to divert attention from the real causes of high unemployment among African-Americans.
"We cannot afford to let people who have political agendas divide us," she said.
Gallegly, who called the hearing as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, disputed the assertion it was part of a divide-and-conquer strategy.
The focus of the hearing was illegal immigration's impact on American minorities.
By Michael Collins