Supreme Court Argument Reaffirms the Case for Disparate Impact
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a very important fair housing case, and the justices’ comments from the bench have had court watchers buzzing ever since. Here’s my take on what the legal back-and-forth in the case does and does not mean.
|Jan 29 2015|
Arizonans Widely Support the DREAM Act In Contrast to Governor Brewer's Stance
Andrew Johnson contributed to this post
On August 16, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer signed an executive order to block state benefits, including driver licenses for recipients of Deferred Action--a new federal government program that reflects the goals of the Dream Act to temporarily delay deportation for undocumented immigrants who moved to the U.S. before the age of 16 and are currently 30 years old or younger.
Despite the Governor’s claim that this is what the citizens of Arizona want, nearly three-quarters of Arizonans (73%), regardless of their race, ethnicity and party affiliation support the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from college or serve in the military to become U.S. citizens (Marist Poll, April 2012).
|Aug 17 2012|
Legal and Policy Analysis: Human Rights in State Courts 2011
Since the last version of this report was released, state court litigants in the United States have continued using international human rights law in their arguments. Many of these cases have been met with cursory dismissals from the court, especially in death penalty cases. At the same time, courts have seriously considered some arguments, and occasionally use international law affirmatively as persuasive authority for the interpretation of state constitutions, statutes, and common law.
|Jul 15 2011|
Telebriefing: Tracking the Crackdown - June 15, 2011
On June 15, New America Media and The Opportunity Agenda hosted a telephonic news briefing on efforts to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to deny birthright citizenship to any child born in the United States to parents who are undocumented immigrants. This proposed change specifically targets immigrant women.
|Jun 17 2011|
A Call to End Indefinite Detention
The right to due process under the law is a cornerstone of America’s commitment to freedom and fairness. Protections against unfair imprisonment, mistreatment by law enforcement officials, and indefinite detention—guaranteed by the 5th and 6th amendments of the Constitution—are rights that no one living in the United States would or should be expected to go without.
|Jun 7 2011|
Supreme Court Decision Restores a Sense of Fairness to Criminal Immigration Proceedings
Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, many legal U.S. residents who had committed minor misdemeanors were unfairly classified as having committed "aggravated felonies" under immigration law, which subjected them to automatic deportation. The Supreme Court took note of the unfair deprivation of due process and took a strong stance in support of human rights when it corrected the deportation requirement for minor drug offenses.
|Jun 17 2010|
The Case for a Constitutional Visionary
The conventional wisdom is that President Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens won’t change the Supreme Court much, since Justice Stevens is part of the Court’s progressive wing and President Obama’s choice is likely to be of a similar stripe. That thinking is dead wrong.
|Apr 20 2010|
Corporate Cash Breeds Inequality
When the founding fathers gathered to declare independence, they were responding to consolidated power in the form of the monarchy and the church. The system that they designed to govern the United States was intentionally complex and diffuse, with checks and balances in place to prevent any single individual or group from exerting undue influence over the process. This past Thursday, with their ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court violated these intentions, enhancing the influence of a small handful of very powerful institutions and providing them with the tools to crowd out diverse voices.
|Jan 26 2010|
High-Stakes of Stupak-Pitts Amendment for Women of Color
A few Saturdays ago, on November 7th, I was at the annual SisterSong meeting, a gathering of about 300 reproductive justice advocates. What was exhilarating and unusual about this meeting was that the vast majority of people attending were women of color who are focused on gender and sexuality issues. This was a fantastic event that showcased and harnessed the power of women of color, a group often portrayed as politically and socially marginalized.
|Nov 24 2009|
The Big Picture: Health, Justice, and Abortion
As the United States government prepares for further personnel shifts in the administration, Americans are anxious to know the nominees' priorities. How refreshing, then, to see health and justice for the American people trump politics. As Judge Sotomayor faces the scrutiny of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Obama has nominated Regina Benjamin to be the next Surgeon General-- America's "top doctor." Part of what will make, and has made, these women such phenomenal public servants is their refusal to be snagged by the issue of abortion.
|Jul 20 2009|
A Voice in Society
A truly functional democracy depends on the ability of everyone to have a voice—a chance to contribute their views and perspectives, and to have them heard and respected.
That everyone be able to participate in public debate, in decisions that affect us, and to be part of the social and cultural life of that nation is essential to our ability to achieve our full potential, as individuals and together.
|Jun 26 2009|
Counting All Votes
An equal right to vote is at the core of our democracy. With an African American in the White House, it’s increasingly popular to believe that racial bias no longer exists, especially when it comes to voting. There’s no doubt that our nation has made significant progress in securing equal opportunity, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why it was so important that the Supreme Court left in tact a key provision of the Voting Rights Act earlier this week.
|Jun 24 2009|
Real Choices for Reproductive Justice
It is certainly an important time for America's discussions of health, but also an important time to talk about equality in America as it relates to access to reproductive health care.
|Jun 15 2009|
Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing the Sotomayor Nomination
Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda and former Supreme Court law clerk, weighs in on President Obama's nomination to the Supreme Court. Speaking on MSNBC, Jenkins shares the rich experience Sonia Sotomayor can bring to the Court, and how she is a symbol of opportunity for all.
|May 26 2009|
The Power of a Diverse Supreme Court
In nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the President has made good on his promise to appoint someone with stellar qualifications and intellect who understands the experiences of everyday Americans. Raised in a Bronx housing project by her widowed single mother, Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and has had a remarkable legal career as a prosecutor, a private attorney, a trial court judge, and an appellate judge.
|May 26 2009|
|Law and Policy||
Brief of The Opportunity Agenda as Amicus Curiae in Ricci v. DeStefano (2009)
The Opportunity Agenda filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano. In this case, the City of New Haven, CT, declined to certify the results of a firefighter promotion test based on evidence that the test was discriminatory in its operation, and fairer and more effective tests were available. Firefighters who scored highly on the flawed test sued the city, claiming that throwing out the test discriminated against them based on their race.
|May 10 2009|
Talking Points: The Supreme Court's School Diversity Cases (2007)
We recommend using the following messages to communicate the importance of pursuing inclusion in our schools, and outline the valid options for doing so.
|Jan 29 2009|
Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup
• Last week, The Opportunity Agenda's Immigration Blog Roundup linked to an Of América posting about the Guantanamo-like treatment of individuals held at ICE detention facilities. The latest Breakthrough video titled “Death by Detention” documents individuals’ stories of their horrific experiences at these facilities. The video has been posted on numerous pro-migrant blogs, including Standing FIRM.
• Immigration News Daily has posted an editorial titled “No Getting Around the Wall.” The editorial, which originally appeared in La Opinión, condemns the Supreme Court for refusing to hear a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security decision to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Numerous Arizona environmental organizations have claimed that the DHS ignored 36 environmental protection laws in deciding to construct the wall:
• Wednesday’s Immigration Equality Blog posting calls attention to a USA Today story describing how U.S. citizens are suing the DHS after they were detained and interrogated by ICE workers. The plaintiffs in the suit claim that they were subject to racial profiling and that ICE officials violated workers rights in the process of detaining people. One immigrant worker, Jesus Garcia, was thrown in jail because of the ICE agents’ “mistake”:
• A story that appeared in Medical News Today and was initially reported by the Ventura County Star examines California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to save $87 million in the state’s Medicaid program (“Medi-Cal”) by cutting funding for health care services to approximately 91,000 immigrants each month:
|Jun 26 2008|
Supreme Court Decision Offers Mixed Results for Immigration Reform
In a victory for immigrants’ rights, the Supreme Court handed down a decision allowing immigrants to file motions without fear of being deported for not voluntarily departing within a specific time period. The case, Dada v. Mukasey addressed two conflicting sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 1229c allows judges to grant immigrants who are told to deport the country permission to leave voluntarily within a specific period of time. However, Section 1229a allows individuals to challenge a deportation order (in the event of any changed circumstances) but requires them to remain in the country while legal motions are pending.
The petitioner, Samson T. Dada, an immigrant from Nigeria, was married to an American citizen in 1999. However, without adequate proof of marriage, the Department of Homeland Security alleged that he had overstayed his temporary immigrant visa and ordered his deportation. An Immigration Judge granted Dada’s request to voluntarily leave the country within 30 days, a decision that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. However, two days before he was supposed to leave, Dada found conclusive proof of his marriage, withdrew his request for voluntary departure and filed a motion to reopen his removal proceedings. The BIA denied his request, claiming that Dada had failed to depart the U.S. within the allotted time period (while ignoring Dada’s withdrawal of his request to voluntarily leave). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the BIA’s decision.
|Jun 24 2008|
The Return of Redemption
|Dec 19 2007|
Americans Care Deeply About Human Rights
|Dec 11 2007|
Today is Human Rights Day
|Dec 10 2007|
Undocumented Immigrant Honored in Arizona
|Dec 5 2007|
ICE Detention Center Employed Undocumented Immigrants
||Nov 2 2007|
Equality in Immigration, Schools, and the Workplace
||Oct 11 2007|
Bush Vetoes, Spitzer Sues over Children's Health
||Oct 3 2007|
A Desegregation Hero
Our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, has a new article up at Tom Paine in which he recounts a party honoring Judge Robert L. Carter and the implications of the recent Supreme Court cases in two voluntary school integration cases.
|Aug 15 2007|
1.6 million immigrants separated from families: Human Rights Watch new report
For your entertainment, two videos on immigration:
|Jul 19 2007|
Does socioeconomic balancing also integrate schools?
||Jul 16 2007|
How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?
||Jul 12 2007|
Schools Decision Feedback
In the aftermath of the Supreme
In addition to the many opinions
In light of Justice
However, not all writers agree with this
For more commentary on the ruling,
|Jul 10 2007|
School Decisions' Online Responses
In light of the recent Supreme Court rulings in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith V. Jefferson County Board of Ed et
However, it is disappointing that the Supreme Court ruled
For more blog coverage, try the ACS blog, SCOTUS blog, firedoglake, and these previous entries (here and here). In addition, consider The
|Jun 29 2007|
Daily Blog Round-Up 6/13/07: Part 2
||Jun 13 2007|
Daily Blog Round-Up 6/5/07
||Jun 6 2007|
Daily Blog Round-up
||May 30 2007|
Struggling to Get From Many to One
Alan's Jenkin's latest piece at Tom Paine is live:
|May 22 2007|
A Bipartisan Civil Rights Legacy
Our executive director has a new op-ed posted at TomPaine.com. Here's a snippet:
|Jan 5 2007|
Mixed Messages from the Supreme Court
Many of us who attended Monday’s Supreme Court arguments in a pair of school integration cases are still reeling with a mix of emotions—pride, dejection, hope, and, at times, outrage.
In these cases, the Court will decide whether modest, voluntary efforts by Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington to keep their schools diverse and inclusive somehow violate the Constitution. It seems amazing that this question is even before the Court, but Monday’s argument made clear that even these meager, uncontroversial efforts are very much in jeopardy.
As we waited on line outside the Court, it was inspiring to see a huge crowd of students, parents, and other everyday folks marching in the cold to support integration.
As the arguments proceeded, it was heartening to see Seattle and, especially, the formerly-segregated city of Louisville, vocally defending their right to protect inclusion and the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education.
And it was stirring to hear Justice Breyer’s eloquent explanation of why careful efforts to promote integration fulfill the core purpose of the 14th Amendment and are clearly constitutional.
The Court’s other three moderate members—Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg—appear to agree with Justice Breyer that these communities’ efforts are not just constitutional, but vital to the future of our increasingly diverse and interconnected society.
All eyes, however, were on Justice Anthony Kennedy who, with the departure of Sandra Day O’Connor, is now the ideological center of the Court and the key swing vote in cases like these. Justice Kennedy began his questioning (in the Seattle case, which was argued first) in measured tones that seemed to reflect an effort to balance competing interests. But as the two hours wore on, the tone and content of his questions were often troubling.
Perhaps most distressing, Justice Kennedy seemed actively resistant to the reality that promoting inclusive and integrated education—which he appears to support as a compelling governmental interest—necessarily requires an intentional consideration of the demographics of the students who attend the schools.
Kennedy repeatedly asked about school siting decisions (i.e., locating new schools in places calculated to draw an integrated student body), magnet schools, and other strategies that he presumed to be less focused on student’s individual characteristics. But, as the lawyers for Seattle and Louisville pointed out, those communities had tested and considered a range of efforts, and found them to be ineffective. And, as we’ve seen in voting rights cases, the drawing of attendance zones (like electoral districts) still requires a consideration of individual demographics.
More hopefully, Justice Kennedy seemed impressed with Louisville’s successful transition from a community with enforced segregation to one in which residents and their elected officials are actively choosing integration.
Ultimately, it seems the key to how these cases are decided, will be whether Justice Kennedy accepts the reality of what’s required to achieve integration in any meaningful way.
The argument also offered plenty to be angry about. First, there was the Court’s rejection of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s request, as a litigating “friend of the court” in these cases, to share the school districts’ argument time—a request that the schools supported. The absence of a voice for communities of color or civil rights—and the presence of the Bush Administration, which is opposing the integration plans—created a stunning scenario: Two city school districts (one of them segregated as late as 2000) arguing with dissenting white parents and an anti-civil rights Bush Administration about the future of integration in America. That there was no racial or gender diversity among the lawyers arguing the case made the scene all the more stunning.
Also striking was the fact that the Seattle and Louisville lawyers—though able and committed—were not constitutional or civil rights experts, nor were they experienced Supreme Court litigators. The eloquence and expertise of Ted Shaw, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was especially missed at the argument.
Another source of outrage was the hostile and at times offensive commentary of Justice Antonin Scalia. No one was surprised that Justice Scalia believes these plans to be unconstitutional. He has never voted to uphold a program designed to promote diversity or integration in education. But the tenor and content of his comments in Monday’s case were, at times, breathtaking. Most striking was his implication that only a white-controlled school board could be assumed to have benevolent motives in adopting an integration plan, while the same action by a majority-black school board would be inherently suspect. The following exchange—between Justice Stevens, Justice Scalia, and Solicitor General Paul Clement (who presented the Bush Administration’s position) reflects a bit of Justice Scalia’s position:
GENERAL CLEMENT: Absolutely. And it also has some real world consequences when we decide we're not going to apply the normal scrutiny we would to racial classifications just because we've made some -- I don't know based on what judgment that in this case, it is benign, so we can trust the local school officials.
JUSTICE STEVENS: Well, it isn't that we've made a judgment, the local school board has made a judgment which has a lot of experience under both systems.
GENERAL CLEMENT: There's a lot of experience in Brown, too, and those were local school boards, too. And I think the lesson is --
JUSTICE SCALIA: Do we know the race of the school board here? I mean, that was not -- how do we know these are benign school boards? Is it stipulated that they are benign school boards?
GENERAL CLEMENT: I missed that in the joint stipulation, Justice Scalia.
The other remarkable theme that we heard from Justice Scalia, the Solicitor General, and Chief Justice Roberts was that considering students’ race to promote integration and inclusion is the constitutional and moral equivalent of considering race to promote segregation and exclusion. This is just the kind of twisted analysis, detached from our country’s past, present, and future, that many Americans feared when they opposed Roberts’ elevation to the position of Chief Justice.
Justice Alito, for his part, was more nuanced in his questions, focusing on the details of the two plans. But his questions also seemed strongly to indicate that he believes these plans to be unconstitutional, at least in their specifics.
So how should we think and talk about these cases in the months before the Court announces its decision? We think it’s important to:
Looking forward, it will be important to encourage communities to promote integration to the full extent allowed by the Court’s decision, once it’s announced. And, beginning next year, it will be crucial to demand of the new leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee that they refuse to confirm judicial nominees who do not show an understanding of our nation’s history and current reality, or of the proper role of the Equal Protection Clause.
|Dec 6 2006|
Affirming School Diversity
This is a guest post by Robert Anthony Watts.
In 1975, Louisville was the scene of tumultuous, bitter civic strife as court-ordered busing was initiated to integrate the local schools. White parents rose up in furious opposition. Buses carrying children were pelted by eggs and rocks. Police officers in helmets and riot gear worked overtime to protect buses and school children. The Ku Klux Klan held meetings and prominently took a role in opposing busing.
A funny thing happened in Louisville: the protests died down, tensions eased, and the idea of racially integrated schools gained wide support among blacks and among whites. Over time Louisville school officials adjusted their plan to give parents much more choice and freedom in where their children attend schools.
In the history of school desegregation, the experience of the Jefferson County school district (the county and city merged its school districts in the early 1970’s) is one of the successes. Indeed largely because of Jefferson County, Kentucky has the most integrated schools in the nation, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project (pdf).
In 2000, the Jefferson County school district was released from federal court supervision after a judge concluded that it had removed “all vestiges” of segregation. Jefferson County could have returned to a “neighborhood” school plan. But given the prevailing pattern of housing segregation in Jefferson County (and in the nation), this option would have meant the end of integrated schools for 30,000 to 50,000 of the district’s 97,000 students.
What’s more, the community had come to desire integrated classes. Parents wanted their children in classes with members of other groups. Acting on its own, the Jefferson County school district decided to maintain its policy of creating integrated schools.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to the Jefferson County diversity efforts and to similar efforts in Seattle, Washington. Plaintiffs in each case have sued their school system alleging discrimination on the basis of race.
Fifty years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court concluded that the 14th Amendment was intended to reject segregation and to bring the country together. In the years since Brown, although de jure segregation has been largely eliminated, de facto segregation remains a barrier to creating opportunity for all Americans. In the last two decades, African American and Latino students have become more segregated from white students, according to a recent study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project (pdf).
No one knows the exact number of school districts and programs that could be affected by the ruling. But dozens of school systems have programs and policies—often “magnet” programs—to create diverse schools and diverse classes.
What’s important is that most of these recent efforts have been implemented by local officials responding to the desire of parents to send their children to integrated schools. In Seattle and in Louisville parents, students and community leaders strongly endorse diversity. Also important is that plans like those in Louisville and Seattle are highly flexible plans in which race is one factor among several for how students are assigned to school.
These cases also allow Americans a chance to reflect on the importance of diverse schools in breaking down barriers and creating a society that allows everyone an opportunity to fulfill his potential. As the United States becomes more and more multiracial, and as school officials ponder new efforts to create integrated classes, they can draw upon a broad body of research that reveals the many benefits of an integrated classroom.
A key finding—cited by Louisville and Seattle in their court briefs—is that integration produces educational benefits as well as societal benefits of increased racial and ethnic understanding. Research also shows that racially diverse classes improve critical thinking skills for all students, and that learning in a diverse setting improves problem solving and communication skills for all students.
Other research findings conclude that:
Now that the United States has moved beyond the rancor and turmoil associated with court-ordered school integration, it would be sadly ironic if the Supreme Court places the breaks on voluntary programs like those in Louisville and Seattle.
Americans have made major progress in race relations since Brown. Diverse schools have been part of that effort. Americans have come to embrace diversity in great numbers.
The Supreme Court needs to affirm the importance of integrated classes.
|Dec 4 2006|
Schools and the Court: Creating Inclusive Communities
Yesterday the Supreme Court announced that it will consider a number of cases this term questioning the efforts schools in Seattle and Louisville to promote diverse student populations.
The cases will be heard in December, and are likely to garner quite a bit of attention, so it's important to take a minute to remember why the efforts of these communities are consistent with the Constitution and our values as Americans, and deserving of the public's support.
In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court recognized that the purpose of the Equal Protection Clause is to bring us together as a nation of diverse peoples, and that promoting diverse education is a compelling government interest. That is what these teachers, parents, and education leaders are doing - providing a vision of unity and cooperation for their children that we can all be proud of.
Opponents will argue for the narrow interests of a few students and parents over the common good. They'll invoke inflammatory terms like quotas and racial preferences, and so many other straw men meant to distract attention and draw down support from the real issue: that we are all in this together, and these programs, which bring our children together, ultimatley make us stronger as a nation.
Years of experience show that many communities can't achieve inclusive, diverse schools without making that an explicit goal and working towards it intentionally. And research shows that public schools in America are rapidly resegregating. By choosing inclusion instead of separation, these schools are working to buck that trend and build the kind of community that we all want to live in: a community of cohesive, well-educated and prosperous young people prepared for the future. That's a goal that every American should support.
|Oct 4 2006|
Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing Supreme Court Justice Picks
Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss Supreme Court nominations.
|Jan 1 2005|