Supreme Court Rulings Uphold Affirmative Action, Deal Blow to Immigration Reform and Fourth Amendment Rights
This week the Supreme Court has issued several rulings that will shape the landscape of opportunity in the United States, and have tremendous impact on the communities that PolicyLink works in support of every day.
We were thrilled to see the Supreme Court uphold race-based affirmative action programs through Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — a ruling that reaffirms the importance of diversity in higher education in Texas, and across the country.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court issued two other key decisions this week that will have serious repercussions for millions of low-income people and people of color.
In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court’s 4-4 “tied” ruling upholds the lower court’s decision to block President Obama’s Executive Action on immigration. This decision halts the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs, which together would have offered nearly five million residents and aspiring Americans the opportunity to obtain a work permit, receive protections from deportation, and keep their families together. This decision reinforces the impact of the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, which left the highest court in the land unable to break a tie vote and fulfill its purpose of rendering a decision on this critical case.
Finally, in Utah v. Strieff, the Court dealt a blow to fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures by ruling that evidence discovered during an illegal stop can be used as long as an existing arrest warrant can be identified during the stop. Given that outstanding warrants, particularly those originating from unpaid court fines and fees for traffic violations and other minor offenses, are extremely common — and even more so in communities of color and low-income communities — this ruling will have serious repercussions for communities that are already so often over-policed. As Justice Sotomayor noted in her dissent, the ruling essentially allows police officers “to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check for outstanding warrants even if you are doing nothing wrong.”
Though the vote on affirmative action is encouraging, we are deeply disappointed that the Court has also voted to restrict the rights and protections of millions of people living in this country. But we must not be deterred. At a time when hate, police brutality, and anti-immigrant sentiments have become prevalent, we must now, more than ever, make the case for inclusion.
The ability to thrive as a nation, today and in the future, depends on our ability to build a society where all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.