Jason Richwine’s Resignation is Welcome News, But We Expect More

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Headshots101After a series of devastating revelations about his work, Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst Jason Richwine—co-author of Heritage’s immigration study released last week— announced his resignation this past Friday.

This is welcome news and a good first step for the Foundation.  Richwine did not just co-author what most everyone considers a deeply flawed report.  It turns out he is a champion of an antiquated theory we thought has gone the way of the early 20th century—that somehow there is a link between race or ethnicity and IQ.  In fact, Richwine was even more explicit—he asserts that Hispanic immigrants are inherently less intelligent than Whites.

Heritage answered one question this past Friday afternoon—what actions they would take regarding Richwine.  But they have yet to address the larger and much more important questions.  Why was someone like Richwine even hired in the first place?  How could someone who traffics in specious theories on intelligence, race, and ethnicity be Heritage’s policy expert on not only immigration but education, for heaven’s sake?  Despite Heritage’s disavowal of Richwine’s views, how could these views not have shaped how he conducted the immigration study?  And finally, what does that say about Heritage’s mindset on this issue?

Simply put, it strains credulity that these revelations were also news to Heritage and that they had “no idea” about Richwine’s theories.  This was not a youthful indiscretion or an obscure article written years ago.  This was his doctoral dissertation—from Harvard, no less—published in 2009.  And he has been very public about his work since then, publishing op-eds in major publications and participating in high-profile speaking events.  In short, the folks at Heritage, or at the very least his bosses, knew precisely who Richwine is and what he thinks.

This is unacceptable.  Richwine’s theory is the type of thinking that led “researchers” in the early 20th century to classify 83 percent of Jews and 79 percent of Italians entering Ellis Island as “feeble-minded.”  That “research” led to one of the most restrictive and biased laws ever enacted in this country, the Immigration Act of 1924, which set up strict quotas in order to prevent “lesser races” from immigrating.  This kind of ugly “research” and the resulting actions have rightly been debunked and denounced for decades.

We have heard a lot from Heritage’s beleaguered spokesperson, but nothing at all from Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.  That has to end.  DeMint needs to denounce Richwine’s work for what it is—outrageous and wrong—and to recognize Latinos as “makers,” not “takers.”  He must not permit his organization to resort to ad hominem attacks.  This includes not employing “experts” who believe Hispanics are inferior, in defiance of both the facts and experience.  Those alleged experts should take a look at the latest Pew Hispanic report, which shows that a higher percentage of Hispanics than Whites are enrolling in college.

The Heritage Foundation’s actions last week comes on the heels of the tremendous bipartisan efforts of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” which have given our community a lot of hope, as has the courageous and outspoken leadership of Senators Rubio, McCain, Flake, and Graham.  As we’re poised to take this big step forward, we should not let the attitude of the Heritage study and its authors take our country two steps back.