Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Immigration and Affirmative Action


I don’t think it has been acknowledged how affirmative action has changed the terms on which people from different groups enter the country. In fact, sometimes I am surprised that conservatives who are on the record as being against racial preferences also sponsor continued high levels of immigration. Hispanics, for example, are now virtually a constitutionally protected group, entitled to affirmative action–theoretically a proportional share of various social goods, especially slots in selective undergraduate and graduate schools, but also government contracts and grants for businesses. Exact proportionality, which would be something well over ten percent for Hispanics, may be difficult to obtain in every area but a certain proportion is as good as guaranteed.

In the University of Michigan Law School case that was the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court Grutter decision, Hispanics constituted about five percent of the applicant pool and were given five percent of the slots, even with lower credentials than many of the white students who applied. This was called “critical mass,” which the dissenters in the case said was a euphemism for quotas. This is bad enough as it is, a violation of America’s historical commitment to individual rights, but, then, as the Hispanic proportion goes up in the general population, it seems likely that their allotted percentage or half percentage will have to go up too, even though Hispanics have higher than average high-school dropout levels, even in the second and third generations. As Robert Samuelson has observed, the continued influx of newer immigrants seems to impede assimilation, integration, and upward mobility. Large sections of the country are now Hispanic enclaves where English is scarcely spoken. And as Hispanic students absorb the disdain for America and the minority-victim mentality rampant on college campuses, they can accuse the country of yet another count of ongoing discrimination because of failure to achieve perfect equality of group outcome.

And of course it’s not just Hispanics, although they are the largest immigrating group. In another federal case, decided by the Ninth Circuit, the University of Washington Law School won the right to seek “critical mass,” not just for Asian students, but for each Asian subgroup–Cambodians and Chinese. Thus we go even further into racial- and ethnic-group rights.

Under this conception of group rights, the increasing “diversity” of society has been used to destroy liberal education in general and to promote “multiculturalism” instead. And the attendant political correctness, from both left and right (charges of racism, nativism, xenophobia), has made honest discussion of the topic almost impossible.


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