The Heritage Foundation came under fire Wednesday from Hispanic lawmakers after reports that the author of a controversial immigration study previously wrote a dissertation warning of the lower intellectual capacity of immigrants.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the group’s study “ugly racism and xenophobia dressed up in economic hyperbole” after learning of the dissertation.
The conservative think tank is opposed to a bipartisan Senate immigration bill, which it says would provide “amnesty” to undocumented workers. The report sparked a battle among conservatives, who are split over the Senate proposal.
In his 2009 doctoral dissertation, which was first scrutinized by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Richwine argued inferior genetics are part of the reason “no one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites.”
“The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations,” he wrote.
“The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.”
Heritage immediately distanced itself from the dissertation, with spokesman Mike Gonzalez telling The Hill that Richwine’s previous writings do not reflect the positions of the foundation and that they shouldn’t affect how people view the findings of the immigration study.
“This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation,” he said. “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.”
Gonzalez sought to diminish Richwine’s contribution to the study, and claimed those choosing to focus on his Harvard paper were doing so for politically motivated reasons.
“We welcome a rigorous, fact-based debate on the data, methodology, and conclusions of the Heritage study on the cost of amnesty,” he said. “Instead, some have pointed to a Harvard dissertation written by Dr. Jason Richwine. Dr. Richwine did not shape the methodology or the policy recommendations in the Heritage paper; he provided quantitative support to lead author Robert Rector.”
Gonzalez also stood by the immigration report’s methodology, calling Rector, the study’s lead researcher and author, “one of the nation’s foremost experts on welfare reform.” Gonzalez said that race and ethnicity are not a factor in the Heritage policy recommendations.
Hinojosa said Richwine’s comments “and general world view are a mark against the conservative community and against all fruitful discussions that would lead to comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform.”
“The Heritage Foundation has always been a stalwart of conservatism, but this is common-place, ugly racism and xenophobia dressed up in economic hyperbole. I urge everyone in the conservative community to step up and speak out against this disgraceful, so-called report,” he said.
Hinojosa said Richwine’s remarks reflect “a flawed understanding of human nature and of immigration.”
“Those who come to America to seek freedom and opportunity arrive with the intent to work hard to build a new life,” he said. “In fact, immigrants are twice as likely to start a small business as native-born Americans and countless studies have shown the benefits of immigration on the economy.”
“Republican rebranding to minorities ought not to echo the racism that was used against African-Americans a hundred years ago,” he continued. “Shame on the Heritage Foundation, and shame on those who allow these comments to go unchallenged.”
—This report was originally published at 11:39 p.m. and last updated at 7:15 p.m.