Jason Richwine is a type in American politics.
He holds a doctorate from Harvard. He writes studies, appears at conservative conferences in suit and tie, and expounds the same old nonsense about immigrants that we’ve been hearing since the Know Nothings had their last hurrah.
Sure, his work is perfumed with the air of scholarly respectability, but his eugenics-based beliefs bear more than a whiff of white supremacism. Remarkably — or maybe not so remarkably — that was no bar to getting a perch as a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s most influential think tanks.
One of his learned opinions is that Hispanics are genetically inferior intellectually and will never fully assimilate into U.S. society.
If you’re unfamiliar with Richwine, he garnered notice as co-author of a study Heritage published recently in hopes of defeating immigration reform legislation in Congress. The paper argues, unconvincingly, that changing current immigration law will cost the United States trillions of dollars.
Having read Richwine’s report, a curious blogger at the Washington Post looked up his other work and discovered his 2009 Ph.D. dissertation. In it, the young scholar argued that IQ should be the means used to select immigrants, observing by the way that there are too many intellectually inferior Hispanics already in the country.
The resulting furor pretty well torpedoed Heritage’s messaging on the Senate immigration proposals, and recently Richwine announced his resignation.
It would be difficult to convey the offensiveness of Richwine’s dissertation, titled “I.Q. and Immigration Policy,” better than by quoting a few choice lines.
“No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach I.Q. parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-I.Q. children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against,” Richwine wrote. “From the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average I.Q. of Hispanics is effectively permanent.”
Heritage had this to say about the dissertation: “This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation. Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer.”
That statement may be sincere, or it may be no more credible than the think tank’s report on the cost of amnesty. That study tried to argue that giving them legal status would wind up costing $6.3 trillion over 50 years. It’s a regurgitation of an old Heritage study, also long debunked for ratcheting up projected costs while ignoring economic benefits.
In fact, Republicans from Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio to Grover Norquist — hardly a softie — have decried the Heritage study as deeply flawed.
In his dissertation, Richwine dredged up the old pseudo-science of eugenics. That’s the same baseless theories about racial and ethnic superiority that have caused nations to embrace selective sterilization, slavery, apartheid and worse.
He counseled using euphemisms like “skill-based” when proposing which immigrants should be welcomed via IQ tests, to “blunt the negative reaction.”
Negative reaction, Jason? To the proposals of a guy who feels permitted to warn that more Latinos — sorry, low-I.Q. immigrants — will lead to “more underclass behavior, less social trust.” That’s code for criminals and degenerates.
Richwine is offensive, but he’s also wrong. Hispanics are assimilating at the same rates as previous immigrant groups, in some ways even faster due to technology. Immigrants have lower rates of criminal conduct than native-born people. And a new study shows that Hispanic high school graduates have now overtaken white students in rates of enrollment into college.
Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to get some people to believe that they are somehow “better” than whole ethnic groups not that different from them. And that any social policy that might impact another person’s well-being will “take” something from them.
Richwine and his ilk on the right also argue against something that Americans hold dear. And that’s the very promise of this country. He’s attempting to undercut the lofty ideals of opportunity enshrined at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore ...”
A very powerful faction among our nation’s so-called conservative movement wants to scribble in, “Just don’t let them be Hispanic.”
MARY SANCHEZ writes for The Kansas City Star. Her column is distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.