University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax sparked a backlash last week when she claimed the United States should favor Western immigrants over non-Western immigrants in comments at a conservative conference.
The claims were quickly described as racist by critics, with alumni urging the Ivy League law school to fire the tenured professor. On Tuesday morning, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger responded, labeling Wax's comments as, at best, "bigoted," and at worst, "racist."
“Embracing cultural distance, cultural distance nationalism, means in effect taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites than non-whites,” BuzzFeed News reported Wax saying. Wax argued that because Western countries share cultural norms with the U.S., white immigrants assimilate more easily into American culture.
Wax was speaking at the first National Conservatism Conference, a three-day event held in Washington, featuring Fox News host Tucker Carlson and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
Wax reportedly said her immigration views were based on cultural concerns, not racial ones. But she implored conservatives not to shy away from race when promoting their immigration stances, which Wax said has resulted in immigration policy that is “driven by fear.”
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Stories about her comments, Wax wrote in an email to USA TODAY, have “mangled, distorted and misrepresented my position and arguments for shock value, sensation, and in order to shut down discussion of important issues regarding immigration." She urged others to read the full transcript of the panel.
Wax's full remarks were not available as of Tuesday, but all speeches from the conference will be uploaded to YouTube in the coming days, said Rafi Eis from the Edmund Burke Foundation, which organized the event.
Wax also said immigrants lead to an increase in litter in American communities, BuzzFeed News reported.
“I think we are going to sink back significantly into third-worldism,” Wax said, according to BuzzFeed.
Studies have shown that more immigration leads to more total economic output and faster growth. In addition, a 2013 study found that Mexican immigration to the U.S. was associated with no appreciable change in violent crime.
After reports of Wax’s comments were published, social media erupted with calls for Penn Law to take action.
A petition written by the law school's Latinx Law Students Association demanded Penn fire Wax, denounce her comments and hire more professors of color.
In a statement, the Ivy League law school's dean acknowledged the pain that Wax's comments inflicted on the Penn Law community and maintained they did not reflect Penn's standpoint.
"I write now to emphasize how fundamentally the substantive views attributed to Professor Wax contravene our institutional values and policies," Ruger wrote. "At best, the reported remarks espouse a bigoted theory of white cultural and ethnic supremacy; at worst, they are racist."
Ruger went on to cite efforts that Penn Law has made in diversifying its faculty and its student body. The statement contained no mention of Wax's job status.
The Penn professor is no stranger to catching headlines with controversial conservative stances. During a conversation on affirmative action in 2017, Wax claimed she didn’t think she had ever seen a black student finish in the top quarter of Penn Law’s class.
After the video surfaced in 2018, Penn Law removed Wax from teaching a mandatory first-year law class, citing her violation of a policy that forbids professors from mentioning student grades.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Penn Law's Amy Wax says US better with more white immigrants