Roger Clegg is correct that the Left often uses the term “racial profiling” profligately, but I would submit that the tendency isn’t confined to the Left. The term has been used by politicians and members of the media with such casual imprecision and elasticity as to render the “debate” concerning the Arizona illegal-immigration bill nearly meaningless. The parties simply aren’t talking about the same thing.
As to whether racial preferences in public universities and racial profiling in immigration enforcement are analogous, one of the questions that must be asked is whether either survives the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny test. The Court in Grutter v. Bollinger found that the purported benefits that flow from having a diverse student body is a compelling state interest (i.e., at least the Court gave First Amendment deference to the University of Michigan in defining that interest).
Is insuring that individuals are lawfully present in the United States a less compelling state interest than having a diverse student body? If so, what makes having a “critical mass” of preferred minority students in an applied physics class more compelling than determining whether a Faisal Shahzad has slipped across the border? Should the answer be contingent on the motive of the person slipping across?