Judge finds racism behind the Arizona Legislature’s ban on Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson

In a long-awaited decision, a federal Judge ruled today that the Arizona Legislature’s ban on Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies program violated the students’ First & Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, because it was enacted and enforced with racial discrimination towards Mexican Americans.

The detailed 42-page Memorandum Decision from Senior U.S. Circuit Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima, sitting by designation, followed a two week trial held in June and July of 2017. The Judge heard extensive testimony from many witnesses, including experts, and received numerous exhibits.

The Court found that former Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal’s anonymous blog comments (published under a pseudonym) with racially disparaging language and conveying racial animus, provided the most important “direct” evidence that racial animus infected the decision to enact the law, as Huppenthal was a key player in voting for it and efforts to get it passed. The judge noted that even former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne described the blog statements as “shocking” and hate speech.

Among other things, the Court cited testimony, evidence of negative mischaracterizations of the MAS program by elected officials, such as Huppenthal and Horne, that had little to no basis in fact.

The Court examined and relied on the historical background of discrimination against Mexican Americans in Arizona, and that the sequence of events departed from normal procedures or substantive conclusions, legislative history of the bill, and use of “code words” to refer to Mexican-American people in a derogatory way, among other evidence carefully detained in the judge’s Memorandum Decision.

Significantly, in relation to enforcement of the law, the Court also cited a wealth of evidence to reach his conclusion that former AG Tom Horne and former Schools Superintendent Huppenthal did not testify credibly about their own motivations.

The Court held that “The passage and enforcement of the law against the MAS [Mexican American Studies] Program were motivated by anti-Mexican-American attitudes.”

Although not involved in the current litigation and result, Vince Rabago Law Office was proud to have previously filed an Amicus “Friend of the Court” Brief in this case, during an earlier summary judgment phase of the case in 2012, in which these legal arguments were presented. Our office represented the National Association of Chicana/o Scholars (NACCS), and 26 other national civil and human rights groups and scholarly associations, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a national 501(c)(3) organization, the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU); the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project; the Mexican American Studies Department of San Jose State University; Chicano Studies Department of California State University-Northridge; American Studies Association (ASA); the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), and many others.

Here is the link to the Court’s Memorandum Decision finding against the State of Arizona.  MAS case – Memorandum Decision – finding against State of AZ- FILED 8-22-2017

Here is a link to the Judgment entered by the Court.  Judgment – FILED 8-22-2017

The issues of what remedy will be imposed will be decided in a later ruling by the Court.

The lawsuit was initially filed back in 2010, and has already made one trip up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case back for a trial on these issues.

U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona.  (C) Image Copyrighted 2017.

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