Affirmative Action FOR Immigrants—Why?

On March 25, VDARE.com`s editor James Fulford pointed us to a video wherein Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds have a conversation that includes both immigration amnesty and affirmative action.  However, they don`t really put the two subjects together.

But the amazing  (when you think about it) existence of affirmative action for immigrants has been around for decades.  Back in 1995, Jim Robb wrote an article about this for The Social Contract quarterly, Affirmative Action for Immigrants: The Entitlement Nobody Wanted [PDF].  In case the absurdity of immigrants receiving preferences isn`t immediately obvious, here are the first six paragraphs of Robb`s article:

Over the past 30 years, affirmative action (racial preference) policies have been extended to more and more racial and ethnic groups, despite the fact that they were originally created to address a rather narrow set of injustices against American blacks.

Now, through a combination of poorly written legislation, murky executive orders, and general inattention, millions of immigrants are eligible for affirmative action benefits upon arrival. This startling phenomenon is caused by several things. 

First, affirmative action policy makes no distinctions concerning country of origin. To meet affirmative action goals mandated by the government, a firm need only hire a certain number of employees from various racial/ethnic groups, regardless of whether or not they are citizens.

Second, the massive immigration influx of the past three decades has brought in immigrants who are mostly Hispanic, Asian, or black. Thus, most new immigrants automatically become protected minority group members. In 1993, for example, 74.9 percent of legal immigrants came from countries whose citizens are generally considered members of the protected racial/ethnic groups.

Completing this disturbing picture is that Congress, apparently by accident, wrote language into its Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which effectively made it illegal to bar immigrants from affirmative action programs. In the 1986 bill, Congress required immigrants to be treated exactly like native-born citizens for purposes of employment. Thus, when affirmative action is practiced by employers, the legislation effectively entitles immigrants to those benefits.

So, employers not only can include non-native born persons in their affirmative action programs, they must.  Immigrants gain these benefits despite the fact that affirmative action was designed to redress grievances of America`s historic minorities, primarily blacks.

The (late) historian Hugh Davis Graham even wrote an entire book on the subject, Collision Course: The Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America (2002).  And here is a notable example of this dynamic in action, transcribed from pp. 146 – 147 of the book:

In 1988, the SBA [Small Business Administration] received a letter from an Indonesian-born woman who owned a small business in California.  We know about her petition, and about the SBA’s 8(a) petitioning process following its provision by Congress in 1978, only from documents obtained in the 1990s through the Freedom of Information Act.

 In her letter to the SBA requesting 8(a) certification, the Indonesian woman (the SBA did not reveal her name) made a strong case for herself.  She recounted how she had office experience in Indonesia, but language and cultural barriers in America forced her to work her way upward as housecleaner, dishwasher, and waitress. 

Eventually she gained English competence, started her own business, and became a naturalized citizen.  Then, following the lead of many of her business competitors, she sought the benefits of SBA minority set-aside contracts.  Up to that point, hers was a typical immigrant success story in America. The SBA, however, turned her down. 

Indonesian-Americans were not named as “members of a designated group,” the SBA replied.  So the woman petitioned for 8(a) eligibility for all Indonesian-Americans.  Following linguistic clues in SBA documents, she switched the tone and theme of her appeal, from the story of immigrant success in America to an emphasis on discrimination and racial oppression: “My color is yellow like other Indonesians I know,” she wrote.  “Asian-Pacific Americans have suffered the chronic effects of discriminatory practices for a very long time, over which they have no control, and Indonesian Americans most definitely included have suffered economic deprivation.  This has impacted all the Indonesian Americans I know in a most negative way.  Good jobs are scarce regardless of talent.  Language and color are a barrier to both employment and a good education.  Indonesian-Americans have no business history…”

In point of fact, Indonesians had an impressive record of business success in America.  In 1989, there were only about 20,000 Indonesians in America.  Despite the recency of their arrival, on average they were better educated and more prosperous than most other Americans.  Nonetheless in response to the Indonesian businesswoman’s second petition, the SBA, making no reference to socioeconomic data, added Indonesians to the Asian Pacific American cluster as presumptively eligible for 8(a) minority set-aside contracts.

So, yes, immigrants receive affirmative action, thus adding another example to my longstanding, global conclusion that every aspect of our immigration arrangements amounts to a victimization of the native-born American citizenry.

(See also VDARE.com`s Affirmative Action Ammuntion Depot)