On Thursday, June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court voted, 4-3, to uphold an affirmative action ruling in the Fisher v. UT Austin case. The case was first brought up in 2008 when Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian woman, was denied admission to the University of Texas. She claimed that the university’s use of race as a factor in college admissions was a violation of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.
According to The Washington Post, “The 4-to-3 decision was a surprising win for advocates of affirmative action, who say the benefits of diversity at the nation’s colleges and universities are worth the intrusion on the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection that generally forbids the government from making decisions based on racial classifications.”
On the same day, the Supreme Court refused to revive President Obama’s plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them the right to work legally in the United States, according to this article by The Washington Post. The immigration program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would have allowed illegal immigrants to remain in the country and apply for work permits if they have been in the U.S. for at least five years and have not committed felonies or repeated misdemeanors. The Supreme Court had a 4-4 tie on the United States v. Texas case on June 23.
“We are dismayed by this ruling by the Supreme Court,” said Leslie Moe-Kaiser, OCA National President, in a statement. “Of the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the United States, 1.5 million are Asian American. These are our fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. When President Obama granted relief to eligible undocumented individuals using his lawful executive enforcement powers, he granted these undocumented members of our community a new lease on life where Congress had failed them so many times. He made it clear that America could no longer tolerate the moral ill of splitting up families and loved ones. The Supreme Court today sullied this vision of a pro-immigrant America by continuing the freeze on DACA and DAPA.”
OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz described the decision as a blow to more than 5 million hardworking American families.
“We’ll make sure our community has a voice this year by holding naturalization workshops, community forums and voter registration drives,” Stolz said in a statement. “We won’t give up until the promise of America—of freedom, dignity and respect—holds true for all Americans.”
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) also expressed their disappointment in the Supreme Court ruling.
Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) said in a statement: “I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling today resulting in a deadlock decision on the President’s executive actions on immigration. Millions of U.S. citizens with undocumented parents and DREAMers will now face uncertainty in their future and may see their families torn apart. Failure on the part of Republican leadership is what forced the President to act. I call on Congress to take action and pass a permanent comprehensive immigration bill and reform our broken system. We cannot afford to wait any longer to reform our immigration system and bring relief to millions of children and families.”
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) joined civil rights and pro-immigrant advocacy groups in criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Texas as a setback for immigrants and their families.
“AALDEF will continue to offer legal assistance to Asian immigrant youth who may be eligible for the original DACA program, which was unaffected by this case. We will also offer consultations to individuals who would have qualified for the new DAPA and expanded DACA initiatives to determine if other forms of relief are available to them,” said Annie Wang, AALDEF staff attorney.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez called on immigrant families to make their voices heard through civic engagement:
Gonzalez said in a statement: “Our country’s highest court missed an opportunity to provide clarity and guidance for the nation, the sole service they are charged with. Instead, they have parted radically with the founding doctrine of our nation. We are the greatest nation on Earth only because we are a diverse group of people, banding together to make a dream work. Today’s deadlock is a setback for immigrant families. But the movement is far from over. …
“This November is an opportunity for immigrant families to make their voices heard. Now is not the time to retract. Now is the time to double down. We must double down on helping eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens. We must double down on registering those immigrant U.S. citizens to vote. And, we must double down on turning out the vote of these New Americans. It is through civic engagement that immigrant families will make their voices heard in the other Washington.”