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L’Affaire Richwine

There are a ton of clips of Jason Richwine talking about race and immigration floating around the Internets. For example, Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed posted a one-minute excerpt from an AEI event that Richwine attended and wrote:

Here’s Video Of Another Time The Heritage Analyst Said Blacks and Hispanics Have Lower IQs

Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and co-author of a controversial report on the economic costs of immigration reform, said at a 2008 event that the “most important way” race was different was in IQ. He made similar comments in a 2009 PhD dissertation, which have received attention this week.

Yes, he said that. But the entire video — which is not hidden away in some secret vault, but available on C-Span — paints a very different picture and Kaczynski omits everything else that Richwine talked about, focusing on the bit that will grab some clicks.

Here’s the link to the entire event, which lasted close to 90 minutes. It’s actually a discussion from 2008 with Mark Krikorian and his book, The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. The talk was moderated by David Frum with Fred Siegel, Richwine, and Krikorian as the panelists. Questions were taken from the audience from both liberal and conservative attendees, including questions on Richwine’s thesis.

In other words, it wasn’t some secret KKK-like talk, but just a normal day at a think-tank.

I thought Krikorian did a fine job his work. As far as a real discussion on race and immigration, that doesn’t happen until about the one-hour mark, when the panel starts taking questions from the audience. If you’re really interested in the race aspect of all this, watch from then on and skip the one-minute clips from the link-baiters.

Mark was very specific in saying that he didn’t agree with Richwine’s alleged ethnic-based immigration policy, based on IQ or anything else. Siegel pointed out his issue with using IQ as an actual measure of intelligence or the ability to succeed. And Richwine ending up clearing up what he said earlier and ending up stating that he, too, was against a ethnic-based immigration policy.

What I think is lost in Richwine’s entire IQ thesis is that he’s focusing on assimilation issues and is theorizing that IQ scores play a part. For the record, I don’t buy Richwine’s argument, but the idea that we should be focusing on immigrant populations and whether or not that can successfully assimilate into U.S. society is an important point to discuss.

One thing all three seemed to agree on was that public schools were failing immigrants and that, until you can fix failing schools, the assimilation problems of newly arrived immigrants will not be solved.

Another important idea discussed at great length was Mark’s contention that each new wave of immigrants hurts the immigrant groups already established in America. This fits in well with the Reihan Salam-Matt Yglesias debate over on The Agenda on the effects of immigration on low-skilled workers.

A last thought on Richwine, who is being painted as a racist by many (including some on the right.)

To borrow a line from our president, let me be perfectly clear: Richwine’s views have been public knowledge for years and are only now becoming an issue because of his co-authorship of the Heritage study on the cost of immigration reform. If you don’t like the Heritage study, then fine. But end this bogus witch hunt by pretending that Richwine’s views are something new.

For example, back in 2009, the New York Times asked in their “Idea of the Day” column — citing Richwine’s research — “Today’s idea: Research finds that ethnic diversity reduces social trust and cohesion, at least in the short term. Is admitting smarter immigrants one answer?”

What’s more, the Times invited Richwine to contribute to their “Room for Debate” as recently as January. Richwine’s views were well known. If Richwine is a racist as alleged, why did the Times invite him to participate?

If Richwine is a racist, then so is the New York Times. Oddly, we don’t hear that charge, do we?

Let’s by all means have a debate on all of this, but the default reaction that Richwine is somehow a racist because of his statistical research is a dishonest attempt to spin the immigration reform issue, and it should stop.



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