Background Checks as the New Racism

The Obama administration has a schizophrenic attitude toward requiring people to go through criminal-background checks. Senator John Cornyn recently grilled Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, about why the 45,000 “navigators” who assist people in signing up for Obamacare aren’t required to undergo a criminal-background check, even though they handle sensitive personal information. However, the risk that unscrupulous or untrustworthy people could hold federally funded jobs certainly concerns the Obama administration in other contexts. In 2009, Robert Groves, President Obama’s handpicked director of the U.S. Census Bureau, announced that every one of the 1.4 million people he would hire for the next year’s national head count would be investigated and fingerprinted and felons wouldn’t be hired. Most Americans would be angry to learn that the kind of vigorous background checks census workers underwent just three years ago have been abandoned in the case of Obamacare navigators. After all, the personal data the navigators will handle is even more sensitive than what census workers were tabulating. Today, all too often, skin color trumps all: Race is often used as the basis for preferring one job applicant or college student to another. But under the EEOC’s guidance, employers who try to factor in the content of one’s character, at least as revealed by one’s criminal record, risk costly litigation and stigma.

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