Supreme Court Decisions: Immigration and Affirmative Action Rulings Today
U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a presidential immigration order and a challenge to use of race in the University of Texas’ admission process.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning upheld race as a factor in college admissions and denied President Obama’s effort to allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits to stay in the United States.
Originating from two Texas cases before the court, the decisions will directly impact millions of Americans.
In the first decision issued Thursday, the court upheld the University of Texas policy that uses students’ race as a factor in determining admissions, ruling that in limited instances, race can be used to promote a diverse student body. The case is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
In the second, United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court split, 4-4, effectively leaving the lower court’s ruling in place, ending protection granted by the Obama administration for about 11 million immigrants via the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). The president wanted to allow undocumented immigrants whose children were born in the United States to apply for work permits and temporary residency.
President Barack Obama expressed disappointment in the DAPA ruling.
“Our founders conceived this country as refuge for the world. Welcoming wave after wave of immigrants kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character and that has made us stronger. But for more than two decades now our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”
A decision involving a third Texas case, focused on abortion rights and regulations for abortion clinics and doctors, is pending and is expected before the end of June.
Together, these three cases deal with some of the United States’ most vexing, contentious issues — abortion, illegal immigration and affirmative action.
Due to the sudden and untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, only eight justices weighed in on these cases. Coincidentally, Scalia died while vacationing in Texas. In the event of a 4-4 decision, the ruling issued by the lower court will stand. (The college admissions case was decided by seven justices; Justice Elena Kagan excused herself due to a conflict.) Scalia’s absence, however, likely did not affect the outcome of United States v. Texas.
These decisions hold far-reaching implications for the American people. And that import comes with intense emotions among advocates on opposing sides of the abortion rights, undocumented immigrant and affirmative action questions.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Demonstrators have gathered in Washington, D.C, to make their voices heard on the matter of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which was argued before the court on March 2, 2016. In 2013, Texas passed the nation’s strictest regulations on abortion providers. The law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital 30 miles from his or her clinic, and requires clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
Because those standards cannot be met in about 20 percent of the state’s counties, the law dramatically reduces a woman’s access to abortion providers.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of those provisions in the law.
United States v. Texas
The state of Texas challenged the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, announced in November 2014, that allows undocumented immigrants with U.S.-born children to apply for three-year work permits enabling them to stay in the United States. United States v. Texas was argued before the Supreme Court on April 18, 2016.
The federal government argued the state had no standing to challenge an executive order. Nonetheless, a federal judge with anti-immigration leanings granted an injunction requested by GOP lawmakers in Texas to stop implementation of the policy.
Thursday’s decision effectively nullifies the president’s executive order.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Does a university need to consider race to achieve a diverse student body? That was the question at the heart of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which was argued before the Supreme Court on Dec. 9, 2015. The justices ultimately decided in favor of the university.
Abigail Fisher, of Sugar Land, Texas, was denied admission to the university and accused the school of preferential treatment for some minority college applicants.
Her entire family had gone to school at UT and she said she’d always dreamed of going there, too. The university countered that Fisher lacked the academic qualifications for admittance regardless of any affirmative action policy. Most of the students with lower grades than Fisher who were granted admission were white.
Fisher was recruited by an activist to take her case to court. The case reached the High Court in 2013 and was sent back to the lower courts for review.