Sadly, but predictably, the response from self-styled civil rights groups to the introduction of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE) Act was to charge that it is motivated by racism. Ironically, these spurious charges are, themselves, an expression of racist stereotypes.
The RAISE Act is the legislative vehicle for implementing the recommendations of a commission appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s and headed by an actual civil rights icon, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. That eponymously named commission called for a merit-based immigration system that placed people of all racial, ethnic, religious and national origins on equal footing in the selection process.
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Our current system favors extended family members of other recent immigrants — something that in other contexts would be considered nepotism and would be outlawed. Under this system, immigrants from about a dozen countries dominate the legal immigration flow to the exclusion of most other applicants. As a result, factors such as compatibility of immigrants’ job skills with the needs of our economy are seldom taken into consideration in determining who gets to settle here. Not surprisingly, therefore, half of all immigrant-headed households now rely on at least one public welfare benefit program.
Rather than offering a rational case for why adopting a merit-based immigration selection process is a bad idea, the defenders of the status quo immediately resorted to labeling the proposal as racist. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has amassed a fortune labeling just about everything it disagrees with as hateful, was true to form. The RAISE Act’s “provisions reflect the shameful agenda of nativists and white nationalists who fear the growing diversity of our country,” the organization charged in a press release.
The SPLC, like other defenders of the enshrined nepotism that serves their political or economic interests, leveled these charges without the slightest awareness of their own racism. Their accusations are based on the racist assumption that an immigration system that awards green cards based on education, job skills, and command of the English language would necessarily favor white, Northern European applicants.
In essence, the SPLC and like-minded groups have taken up the mantle of the discredited, junk-science eugenics movement by asserting that people of all racial, ethnic and national origins could not successfully compete for immigration opportunities under a merit-based system. Of course, real science and empirical evidence demonstrates that people of all backgrounds have the brains and the drive to make the cut. In fact, many of these highly qualified people have been unfairly shut out of the process by a system that favors nepotism over know-how.
It’s not just the professional identity-politics groups that are blathering this sort of nonsense. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, in a well-publicized exchange with presidential aide Stephen Miller, charged that making command of the English language a factor in awarding green cards is a naked attempt to restrict immigration to (white) folks from places like England and Australia.
For a guy who covers the White House for a major news organization to be unaware that the most populous English-speaking nation on earth is India (1.3 billion compared to Australia’s 24.7 million) is a reaffirmation of why the public has as little confidence in the media as it does in Congress. Acosta also ignored the fact that English is the lingua franca of a large swath of Africa and South Asia, Moreover, besides the billions of people (mostly non-white) who speak English as their native tongue, billions more speak and understand it fluently across the globe.
Whether the RAISE Act ever becomes law — it should, and it enjoys broad public support — it has already exposed one undeniable fact: The narrow interest groups that are privileged by the current family chain migration system have no cogent arguments to defend our failed system of selecting immigrants. Instead, all they have are the same baseless charges that they have been employing to protect their privilege.
Ira Mehlman is the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
(photo credit, article image: Beatrice Murch, Flickr)