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Collision Course: The Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America
Synopses & Reviews
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 were passed, they were seen as triumphs of liberal reform applauded by the majority of Americans. But today, as Hugh Graham shows in Collision Course, affirmative action is foundering in the great waves of immigration from Asia and Latin America, leading to direct conflict for jobs, housing, education, and government preference programs.
How did two such well-intended laws come to loggerheads? Graham argues that a sea change occurred in American political life in the late 1960s, when a system of split government — one party holding the White House, the other holding Congress — divided authority and enhanced the ability of interest groups to win expanded benefits. In civil rights, this led to a shift from nondiscrimination to the race-conscious remedies of hard affirmative action. In immigration, it led to a surge that by 2000 had brought 35 million immigrants to America, 26 million of them Asian or Latin American and therefore eligible, as "official minorities," for affirmative action preferences. The policies collided when employers, acting under affirmative action plans, hired millions of immigrants while leaving high unemployment among inner-city blacks. Affirmative action for immigrants stirred wide resentment and drew new attention to policy contradictions. Graham sees a troubled future for both programs. As the economy weakens and antiterrorist border controls tighten, the competition for jobs will intensify pressure on affirmative action and invite new restrictions on immigration.
Graham's insightful interpretation of the unintended consequences of these policies is original and controversial. A short, focused, and even-handed narrative, it illuminates many of the issues that vex the United States today.
"In his probing new book, [Graham] pulls the two topics together and concludes that immigration poses a mortal threat to existing civil-rights policy....Graham believes the explosive growth in affirmative-action eligibility, thanks to immigration, now threatens the future of a program designed originally to empower blacks." John J. Miller, The Wall Street Journal
"There is no better guide for understanding civil rights history and politics than Hugh Davis Graham. With the broad vision, balance, and rigor that are his trademarks, Collision Course explains America's inexplicable civil rights politics at the century's turn. Boldly original, provocative, and utterly fascinating." John D. Skrentny, University of California, San Diego, and author of The Ironies of Affirmative Action
About the Author
Hugh Davis Graham is Holland N. McTyeire Professor of History and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. An authority on contemporary political issues, he is the author of The Civil Rights Era (OUP), Civil Rights and the Presidency (OUP), and The Uncertain Triumph.
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