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Throughout all levels of government, we are witnessing an overall reversal of Obama-era positions on discrimination policies, and a reversal on civil rights in general.

“Since the 1960s, when these major laws were first enacted, we’ve never seen an administration so intensely focused on dismantling civil rights protections across the board,” Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said.

Below are the three main civil rights issues we are currently fighting in court – citizenship, voting rights, and equal access to higher education – and what our status is on those legal battles.

 

Census

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is representing the City of San Jose and Black Alliance for Just Immigration with co-counsel Manatt, Phillips & Phelps, Public Counsel, and the City of San Jose regarding the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The Lawyers’ Committee’s case claims that the addition of the question to the Census violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Enumeration Clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It also asserts that without a fair Census, billions of dollars in crucial funding are in jeopardy. Immigrants and other marginalized communities may be without critical resources such as housing, schools, hospitals, and more if the citizenship question scares people away from completing the Census.

 

Texas Voter Suppression

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit on February 4, 2019, against the Texas Secretary of State David Whitley and election officials for the creation and rollout of a flawed voter purge list that discriminates against naturalized citizens and for sending out notices threatening to cancel voter registrations based on the list.

We also sent Secretary Whitely a pre-litigation notice letter stating that he has 90 days to halt the purge or face additional legal challenges under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which permits states only to remove ineligible voters from the list and prohibits discriminatory purges.

The case was filed on behalf of four nonprofits – MOVE Texas Civic Fund, Jolt Initiative, League of Women Voters of Texas, and NAACP of Texas – whose members include naturalized citizens. They are seeking declaration that the Secretary of State’s advisory violates the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, and that the court blocks all Texas counties from sending notices to individuals requiring them to prove their citizenship on the basis of the purge list or from removing any registered voter from the voter rolls based on a failure to respond to such letters.

 

Higher Education

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with a coalition of other justice groups, is part of the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard case under special “amicus plus” status, which allows the represented students to participate in oral argument and submit evidence, greatly enhancing their voices beyond a typical amicus brief. The Lawyers’ Committee’s coalition represents a cohort of racially diverse applicants, current students, and alumni at Harvard College and offers expertise to assist the court in its ruling.

The coalition asserts that ethno-racial diversity is crucial to students; not only educationally, but also personally and professionally. It also explains that Harvard’s current admissions policy is in compliance with the Supreme Court in that it does not treat race as the primary consideration for admission, and that Harvard has a vested interest in promoting greater representation of, and diversity within, students of color through continued consideration of race.

Anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions originally brought this lawsuit against Harvard in 2014. It challenges Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy under claims that the policy intentionally discriminates against Asian American students and violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The case is currently preparing to go to the Supreme Court.

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