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Affirmative injustice

8/11/2017, 12:20 p.m.
In the same week that it was revealed that the Department of Injustice is spearheading attacks on affirmative action, our ...

Julianne Malveaux

In the same week that it was revealed that the Department of Injustice is spearheading attacks on affirmative action, our 45th president indicated his support for legislation that would drastically change our nation’s immigration policy. Instead of providing immigration opportunities to the families of people who are legal residents of our country, the pending legislation would create a “merit based” system for immigration. 

According to legislation sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, applicants for legal immigration earn points based on education, high-paying job offers, entrepreneurial ability (including the ability to invest in the United States), high-achievement — Nobel Prize winners are welcome — and age (bring on the young). 

Presently, about a million people are granted green cards, but the Cotton-Perdue legislation would cut the number by half within a decade. And the “diversity lottery” that admits 50,000 people each year would be eliminated. A significant number of African immigrants, among others, are admitted through the diversity lottery.

The Cotton-Perdue legislation provides affirmative action for wealthy immigrants. If you have a high-paying job offer, or money to invest or entrepreneurial ability, you’ve got a better chance of getting in than if you are a high school grad who would be sponsored by her sibling. 

Why is this affirmative action? Because affirmative action says that when all else is equal, you choose a preference for a certain group. In higher education, the preference — all else equal — is for those who have been historically excluded and systematically discriminated against. When affirmative action policies were initially developed, they were designed to favor African-Americans and other underrepresented minorities. In practical terms, white women often have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, especially in the workplace.

Forty-five and his posse support preferences in immigration, but oppose them when it comes to higher education and employment. The administration’s positions on both affirmative action and immigration are winks and nods to 45’s base, the nativist white people who irrationally oppose immigration, and feel that white people experience more discrimination than do African-Americans. Their beliefs cannot be verified by economic data that indicate that African-American people experience more unemployment, have lower incomes, less wealth and less education. Equally educated African-Americans take twice as long to find new jobs as white people do. 

Beyond economic matter, basic quality of life issues, such as police violence, are harsher for African-Americans than for white Americans.

If 45 and his crew can state their preferences for immigration policy, why can’t institutions of higher education state their preferences for admissions policy? The problem is that 45 has hired these inferior and aggrieved white people, like Candice Jackson, who works in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Education. While a Stanford student, Ms. Jackson was a staunch critic of affirmative action. 

Forty-five and his colleagues probably would support the same kind of affirmative action in college admissions as they support for immigration. If you have money, are an entrepreneur or have already achieved, then you deserve admission. If not, that’s just too bad. 

Are we facing the end of affirmative action and the end of immigration fairness?  Most likely, unless we resist. 

Every day it becomes clearer that 45 will attempt to implement drastic structural change unless our legislative process is altered by the 2018 elections. Meanwhile, 45 is throwing red meat at the braying dogs of racism and xenophobia. And the dogs are barking at those of us who believe in justice and fairness.

The writer is an economist, author and founder of Economic Education.