The 12 million or more who entered the United States illegally, and would gain United States citizenship under the current immigration proposal, Senate Bill 1348, will qualify for race preferences and privileges for which the majority of Americans are not eligible. This is not fair.
That is the view of Ward Connerly of the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute, a veteran of battles against racial preferences in California, Washington and Michigan, and who believes that "race and ethnic preferences ought to be wrong under any circumstances." The current immigration measure, Connerly believes, would constitute a massive endowment of such preferences.
"This is huge," Connerly told Frontpage. "All this talk of going to the back of the line is B.S.. They would go to the front of the line. The minute they are Americans, they move in front of white males and in some cases white women." Legalized Hispanic immigrants, Connerly says, would also gain privileges over immigrants from nations such as Russia because they would be part of an officially sanctioned “underrepresented minority.”
"We have to somehow make the American public aware of this. We are, right now, the Paul Revere on this. There is a problem here."
The problem, according to Connerly, lies in "the nexus between illegal immigration and preferences." That issue had not been part of the immigration debate until last Friday, when Connerly published an open letter in the Washington Times, signed by various individuals, some of whom disagree with him on immigration policy per se. Signatories include Grover Norquist, Linda Chavez, and civil-rights advocate Joe Hicks.
"This is one of those things that people have not thought through." Connerly said. "A group that has never had the historic discrimination of blacks would be given the status of an underrepresented minority in this country."
Connerly does not find much to like about the Secure Border, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which he considers amnesty, similar to the 1986 measure that granted amnesty to more than five million illegals. Many of them these prior beneficiaries of amnesty, Connerly says, have also become benficiaries of preferences and he sees the potential for repetition.
"My big fear is that we make 12 million all legal and in 10 years we are back in same position with another five million. Illegal immigration will continue. Until you do something about making it impossible to cross border they will come."
A root cause, in Connerly's view, is the definition of a minority.
"It is not numerical," he said, "you are a minority if you are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged. We will have in California a circumstance that one group is a numerical majority but still classified a minority. You would be hard pressed to say they are disadvantaged. The premise is that minorities are politically powerless."
Connerly is himself as racially diverse as Tiger Woods and finds fault with a classification system that uses race for Blacks, Whites, Asians and Native Americans but makes Hispanic an ethnic designation. That poses problems, he says, for legalizing millions of Hispanics with the stroke of a pen. "The minute illegals become legalized they become part of preferences," he said.
Connerly is pushing for a "Fairness to Americans Amendment" to the Senate Bill on Immiogration which reads, in part:
THEREFORE, for purposes of the operation of the civil rights laws of the United States, new immigrants to the United States subject to the Secure Border, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 shall not be considered to be "historically disadvantaged," "underrepresented," or to be in a "protected class" and shall not be entitled to any preferential or remedial employment goals, educational admissions goals or contracting goals by any entity subject to the civil rights laws of the United States.
Connerly's past campaigns for equal treatment have prevailed despite much opposition from professional ethnics and the political establishment. In 1996 he helped eliminate racial preferences in California through Proposition 209, which became the blueprint for similar victories in Washington state in 1998 and Michigan in 2006. Some may have thought that the preferences issue had died with the ambiguous Supreme Court decision on affirmative action of 2003. But the Michigan campaign last year showed how explosive an issue this remains. In a campaign where Bill Clinton and Colin Powell both campaigned against him and Barack Obama ran a radio ad against the measure, Connerly's anti-preference initiative still prevailed 58-42, a wider margin than Proposition 209—and this in the middle of a Democratic landslide nationally and in Michigan itself insofar as Gubernatorial and Senate candidates were concerned.
With three major states solidly against preferences, Connerly wants more people to vote on this question. So he has planned a kind of Super Tuesday on preferences for November 4, 2008, attempting to qualify ballot measures in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, states he says are already feeling the effects not only of “affirmative action” but also of illegal immigration.
"I think we win them all once we get on the ballot," Connerly said. "We need to bring about a critical mass of states. The majority of Americans do not support race preferences. The more we get that view in body politic, the more legislators will be emboldened."
Only 23 states allow ballot initiatives. For the others, Connerly says, the answer is a court decision: "With every passing day I realize how right our position is." He derives a warning from developments abroad. "Look at what is going on India," he says. "They made quotas more strict and the people are rioting."