Commentary Magazine


Topic: Roger Clegg

Race Profiling in Immigration Enforcement

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

In several important posts, Roger Clegg, who heads the Center for Equal Opportunity, lays out the case (or one of them) against the Arizona immigration law. Comparing the use of race in admissions with immigration-enforcement profiling, he writes:

In both instances, the government is treating people differently because of skin color or what country someone (or someone’s ancestors) came from. Constitutional problems aside — and they are considerable — in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society, it is untenable to have a regime that sorts people by race and ethnicity, and treats some better and others worse on that basis. … I have also written that an exception should be made in the terrorism context: Law-enforcement officials are entitled to be cut some slack when they are trying to stop mass murder and win wars. But I have stood by my earlier position that the costs of official racial discrimination are not justified just because the police may think it gives them an edge in fighting street crime.

And it is certainly not justified when the target is suspected not of mass murder, not of dealing drugs, but of nothing more than coming to this country (yes, illegally) to find work and a better way of life for himself and his family.

In short, even if it is constitutional, it is bad policy to use race (or extend such latitude to law-enforcement officers) in matters that don’t involve life and death. Clegg notes that the law was actually amended so that, “on its face at least, it bans racial profiling.” But in practice, there is real concern that race will be the overwhelming factor on which the police rely to identify, stop, and check for proof of citizenship.

To be honest, part of this debate turns on how serious a problem you consider illegal immigration to be. Clegg continues, distinguishing routine immigration enforcement from the war on Islamic jihadists:

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico is not really that kind of enterprise. It’s troublesome to say the police can identify a Mexican (or Italian, etc.) by appearance, and I’m uneasy letting the government define a problem in narrowly racial terms and then claim that it is entitled to consider race in combating it. This is like a police department saying that it is concerned about black drug dealers (they are the ones selling the drugs in its jurisdiction), and so it will target blacks. But most importantly, all this really goes again to the permissibility of considering race as a matter of law, and doesn’t answer my concerns about the divisiveness of this sort of discrimination as a matter of policy.

Clegg, who is a fearless opponent of racial preferences and quotas, sounds an important warning. Conservatives who chastise liberals for reliance on race to achieve their desired social ends (a more inclusive society, narrowing gaps between rich and poor) should be very wary of  supporting race for ends conservatives favor. Opposition to the Arizona law both on this basis and on preemption grounds isn’t, frankly, the politically popular position, as poll after poll has shown. Still, it’s a principled one for those who want to maintain the concept that only in the most dire circumstances should the state classify citizens by race. For those who claim that illegal immigration is just such a problem, I can only respectfully disagree. We have real life-and-death enemies, and the vast number of illegal immigrants don’t fall into that category.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

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