NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Special Treatment for Immigrants Who Never Knew Slavery or Segregation

March 29, 2002

The aim of the civil rights movement of the 1960s was to provide opportunities for blacks -- those who had been the victims of segregation and whose ancestors had been held down by slavery. But in later decades, immigrants somehow got mixed into the equation -- and started receiving preferences and set-asides that were never intended for them.

That is the thesis of a new book by Hugh Davis Graham, called "Set Aside," published by the Oxford Press.

Here are some of the points he makes.

  • Immigration poses a mortal threat to existing civil-rights policy, because so many of today's immigrants qualify for preferential treatment they don't deserve in contracting, employment and college admissions.
  • Of the 35 million immigrants arriving in the U.S. between 1965 and 2000, some 26 million of them -- or 74 percent -- "could claim affirmative action preferences on the basis of historic discrimination that they never experienced."
  • Blacks are no longer the chief beneficiaries of affirmative action.
  • In 1995, for instance, they owned only three of the top 25 firms receiving federal set-aside contracts.

Immigration effectively turned the rules of affirmative action into a muddle.

Indonesians qualify for set-asides, along with people from Nepal and Pakistan -- but not those from Afghanistan or Turkey.

Source: John J. Miller, "Bookshelf: Out of One Set of Preferences, Many... and Many New Debates," Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2002.


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