Despite the anti-discriminatory stipulations included as part of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, President Obama has repeatedly joined with foreign leaders and ethnic pressure groups to condemn the statute as an affront to human rights that enables and encourages racial profiling.
However, Obama’s criticisms of the Arizona legislature are in direct conflict with the actions of his own administration, which has enshrined preferential policies into new federal laws, civil rights activists point out. By contrast, the state lawmakers who have been on the receiving end of White House rebukes have placed on the ballot for voter approval this November an unheralded anti-quota initiative that explicitly outlaws race and gender preferences, the activists point out.
In a joint White House news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon this past May, Obama characterized Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, as a “misdirected expression of frustration” that would subject law abiding individuals to unfair racially motivated scrutiny.
Other administration officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, have also invoked the specter of racial profiling as a way to delegitimize and discredit state efforts to enforce federal immigration law.
Meanwhile, critics note, Team Obama is advancing race conscious policies on the sly.
Government agencies and private contractors must incorporate racial and gender preferences into their employment practices under Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank finance bill, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, says. This key provision calls for the creation of at least 20 new Offices of Minority and Women inclusion.
The affected agencies include: The Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the 12 Federal Reserve regional banks, the Board of Governors of the Fed, the National Credit Union Administration, the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Federal agents would be responsible for ensuring that an appropriate mix of women and minorities were operating not only in government but also within the workforces of contractors and subcontractors.
“Section 324’s provisions are broad and vague and are certain to increase inefficiency in federal agencies,” Furchtgott-Roth noted. “To comply, federal agencies are likely to find it easier to employ and contract with less-qualified women and minorities, merely in order to avoid regulatory trouble. This would in turn decrease the agencies’ efficiency, productivity and output, while increasing their costs.”
The bill also calls for employment tests to be applied against “financial institutions, investment banking firms, mortgage banking firms, asset management firms, brokers, dealers, financial services entities, underwriters, accountants, investment consultants and providers of legal services.”
Additionally, racial preferences have been incorporated into the health care bill in a section beginning on page 879 that Arizona Civil Rights Initiative (ACRI) blogger Allan Favish has analyzed and exposed.
This section directs the Health and Human Services secretary to “make grants to, or enter into contracts with, eligible entities . . . to operate a professional training program in the field of family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, or geriatrics, to provide financial assistance and traineeships and fellowships to those students, interns, residents or physicians who plan to work in or teach in the field of family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, or geriatrics.”
Continuing on pg. 881 the bill further declares:
“In awarding grants or contracts under this section, the Secretary shall give preference to entities that have a demonstrated record of the following: . . . Training individuals who are from underrepresented minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds.”
NEXT: The Obama administration’s political calculus
There is a certain calculus at work on the part of administration officials that makes sense politically, even as their actions highlight policy inconsistencies on racial matters that defy logic, Leon Drolet, campaign manager for the (ACRI), explained in an interview.
“Obama’s opposition to the immigration law in Arizona does not come from any desire on his part to see every ethnic group treated equally or out of any genuine concern over profiling,” he said. “Instead it comes from his desire to cater to certain ethnic groups so he can gain in areas that are important to the constituency of the Democratic Party. His inconsistency on policy can be explained by his consistent view on the politics.”
He continued, “Once you have the ability to pick racial winners and losers, this means you can give out jobs and contracts on the basis of race. This in turn increases the power of government bureaucrats. What may seem illogical in terms of policy actually makes perfect sense when it comes to maintaining your political power base.”
Known formally as Proposition 107, ACRI would amend the Arizona constitution to read as follows: “This state shall not grant preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Its practical effect would be to ban certain affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.
ACRI is part of a larger national effort that began with Proposition 209 in California, which passed in 1996. Ward Connerly, a former University of California regent, who is now president of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), spearheaded the campaign. Similar measures have now passed in Washington, Michigan and Nebraska. In August, the California Supreme Court turned back a legal challenge to Proposition 209 and ruled in favor of its constitutionality.
While Arizona’s civil rights initiative has been overshadowed thus far by the media attention on immigration, it could over the long-term greatly complicate Obama’s political standing among Americans who identified him as post-racial figure, Clint Bolick, the constitutional litigation director for the Goldwater Institute has suggested.
“Although Obama ran as a racial healer who seemed open to some form of socio-economic affirmative action, nothing could be further from the truth and I suspect he has missed a golden opportunity,” Bolick argued. “Once again, Obama has resisted the temptation to engage in positive public policy and I would expect that Arizona will be the latest state to pass this measure by an overwhelming margin and the battle for race and gender neutral polices will continue without the help of the president.”
NEXT: Deliberately crafting SB 1070 to prevent racial profiling
There was a genuine concern in the very early stages of the legislative process that SB 1070 could create an opening for overt profiling practices detached from legitimate law enforcement, Bolick recalled. But the state legislature moved quickly and forcefully to add provisos and stipulations that guarded against discrimination, he said.
“You can’t have it both ways on these issues,” Bolick continued. “Either it’s wrong for government to classify people on the basis of race or it’s not. You cannot be very effectively opposed to police profiling on the one hand while you are advancing the spoils of government on the basis of race in other areas. Unlike the White House, the Arizona state legislature has made a consistent, concerted effort to take race out of the equation.”
Obama has already pivoted against the state level civil rights efforts. He opposed ACRI when it was first introduced in the 2008 election cycle and criticized Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, for supporting it. Obama also opposed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which contained similar language.
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican lawmaker who was the lead author for the immigration bill, lead the charge for putting the civil rights initiative on the ballot.
“When the government decides that discrimination is going to be a large part of what it does that is immoral and dangerous to the founding principles of our nation,” he said. “It is offensive to the principles included in the Declaration of Independence. That’s why we have been careful and consistent in how we have handled both the immigration issue and the civil rights initiative.”
In the end, Pearce said he expects the civil rights initiative to prevail at the ballot box and the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the Obama administration on the immigration law.