More than 160 Asian American and Pacific Islander groups have filed amicus briefs calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action policies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) filed the briefs Monday, representing more than 160 groups and 53 individuals.
“Such broad support for race conscious admissions policies sends a clear message that AAPIs overwhelmingly support these policies and will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise other communities of color,” Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, said in a press release.
The filings are in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s second review of Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian student, was rejected when she applied to UT-Austin. Her initial lawsuit, which was heard by the United States District Court in 2009, alleged that UT-Austin's affirmative action policies prevented her from gaining admission.
In 2013, the Supreme Court justices heard the case, but sent it back to the Fifth Circuit to see if UT-Austin had used other methods to achieve diversity before it used race as a factor.The Fifth Circuit determined the following year that UT-Austin used race-neutral methods and still did not achieve the diversity it sought. It therefore upheld the use of race as part of a holistic admissions approach which is constitutional under current law.
Fisher's case relied heavily on that claim that Asian Americans were discriminated against by the admissions policy at UT-Austin, but in its brief, AALDEF argued that nothing on the record showed that the admissions process at UT disadvantaged or discriminated against Asian Americans.
Asian Americans in UT’s freshman class has risen from 6 percent in 1986 to 23 percent in 2014.
"Supporters of Fisher have mischaracterized UT-Austin's race-conscious admissions policy,” AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung told NBC News in an email statement. “It can benefit Asian Americans through an individualized review of applicants that avoids harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth.”
AALDEF's brief argued that the use of race in a holistic review of applicants is constitutional, and that nothing in UT’s policies indicate “any cap, quota, bias, or other kind of negative action, formal or informal affecting Asian Americans or any other group.”
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The groups also argued that educational disparities still exist among Asian Americans: disaggregated U.S. Census data reveals only 61 percent of Hmong Americans have a high school diploma, for example; in higher education, 12 percent of Laotian Americans have a bachelor's degree or higher.
The Supreme Court announced this summer it would hear the case for a second time. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 9.