THE BLOG
05/10/2013 05:44 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

Offending a Nation of Immigrants

The day after arriving in the United States from Nicaragua at six years old in the 60s, I found myself sitting in a classroom with about 25 first graders who had attended kindergarten and many preschool. I didn't speak or understand a word of English. I felt very alone. The only time anyone addressed me was when other students picked on me or teachers got frustrated because I was unresponsive. My parents didn't speak English either at the time and didn't realize that when they were called in by the principal that I was being diagnosed as being deaf and dumb, which was quickly disproven when I flinched as a counselor clapped her hands loudly by my ears and when I squealed as she pinched my arm. So their next assessment was that I was "slow." I was subsequently made to repeat the first grade.

In other words, as an immigrant my intelligence was being questioned.

When I graduated from the respected Journalism School at the University of Maryland in 1987, I hunted down the teacher, principal and counselor and sent them a graduation notice. A couple of years ago, I was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Chicago School but found out that the three had died. I wanted them to know how wrong they were to jump to such an unfounded conclusion when I was a boy.

Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder (although I consider it a constructive chip) when it comes to such matters. And that chip turned into a chunk when I read Jason Richwine's appalling doctoral dissertation that Hispanics have a lower IQ than Caucasians titled "IQ and Immigration Policy."

No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against. From the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent.

Not only am I offended, but my children and my future grandchildren are offended.

I am well aware that there are people in America that believe Latinos and other minority groups are genetically inferior, but to have an ostensibly credible Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation who received a PhD from the prestigious Kennedy School at Harvard University support the pernicious negative stereotype is dangerous. And the worst-case scenario would be for the child of an immigrant to believe they are inferior and develop low standards.

Juxtapose Richwine's absurd intellectual babble with a Pew Hispanic Center finding released yesterday that Latino students graduating in the class of 2012 were more likely than their Caucasian peers to go on to college.

As the President of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, which has a network of tens of thousands of Latino youth with astronomical GPAs in high school and college while making an impact on their communities and nationally across the United States, I should laugh off Richwine's inane drivel but I can't. And as a community, or moreover as a country, we can't. We would be tacitly endorsing his bigotry.

The immediate reaction by my one of my mentors Dr. Orlando Taylor was, "this reminds me of the warped statements by William Shockley!" I immediate researched the man who invented the transistor and received the Nobel Prize in 1956 for Physics. Shockley espoused that intelligence was genetically transmitted and African Americans as genetically inferior to Caucasians with no hope of reaching their intellectual level. Sound familiar?

Do you remember when The Bell Curve came out in 1994 which claimed that African American's were inherently less intelligent than whites to explain a historically low position in society? I recall major media outlets reviewing the book -- and many praising it -- without challenging author Charles Murray about his apocryphal findings. The book spent 15 weeks on the bestseller list.

And now we are dealing with Richwine's flawed IQ ramblings as an alleged expert on immigration reform. Yes, he's one of the co-authors of the Heritage Foundation study released earlier in the week which projects the bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced by the "Gang of Eight" will end up costing America $6.3 trillion. He came to that ludicrous number because their flawed analysis showed immigrants who enter country without documents ten to only have some high school education (he should have read the Pew Hispanic Center report I mentioned about Latinos outpacing whites to enroll in college) and because of the lower education that Latino households will require more assistance from the government than they will pay in taxes. It sounds like the same unfounded logic as his dissertation in 2009.

Conservative commentator Ana Navarro tweeted about Richwine's dissertation, "That is called racism." She is obviously offended.

One of the young leaders in my network, Jonathan Padilla, said, "As a graduate of Harvard where there are a substantial number of Latinos who are the sons and daughters of immigrants or immigrants themselves, our intelligence was not predetermined but enhanced by our hard work and sacrifice, which is what we gratefully inherit from our parents and grandparents." He is obviously offended.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, called Richwine's work "downright insulting and shameful." She is offended.

We should all be offended by Richwine's audacious theories. Not just Latinos but everyone that lives in this great country should be offended, which is, as President John F. Kennedy eloquently stated in his historical essay, "a nation of immigrants."