SCOTUS decisions on affirmative action, immigration: U-M experts can comment

June 23, 2016
Contact: Greta Guest


The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the University of Texas’ use of race as a factor in admissions, while a deadlocked decision on President Obama’s executive orders on immigration means the program will remain blocked. University of Michigan experts can comment on both issues.


Jason De Leon, assistant professor of anthropology, can discuss the lives of undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. He has worked in the Sonoran Desert and in Mexico, uncovering stories behind the migration to the north.

“This is a setback for the small steps that Obama has made towards some rational immigration reform and highlights the refusal of current Republicans to entertain measures that actually mirror some of those put forth by the Reagan administration in the mid-1980s to deal with this recurring issue,” he said.

“Furthermore, this is a setback in terms of building political confidence in the Latino community in the United States and is one more failure of the right to recognize that immigration is a key issue that, in the long term, cannot be effectively dealt with using xenophobic rhetoric or simplistic blockades of either the legal or physical sort.”


Samuel Bagenstos, the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law, specializes in civil rights law, public law and litigation. He remains an active appellate and Supreme Court litigator in civil rights and federalism cases.

Contact: 734-647-7584,

Sherrie Kossoudji is an associate professor of social work and adjunct associate professor of economics. She has written numerous articles on the legal status of immigrant workers in the U.S. and the incentives to cross the border illegally. Kossoudji has also written on wealth disparities for immigrants.

“Today’s SCOTUS announcement opens the door for the forced separation of mothers and children, fathers and children, and mothers and fathers. This decision will have sweeping social consequences as families are devastated because of deportation.”

Contact: 734-763-6320,

Silvia Pedraza, professor of sociology and American culture, studies the sociology of immigration as well as race and ethnicity in America. Her research seeks to understand the causes and consequences of immigration as a historical process that forms and transforms nations.

“As in earlier Supreme Court decisions this year, the recent rulings on affirmative action (with 7 judges weighing in) and on Obama’s immigration plan (with 8 judges weighing in) demonstrate the issues are being decided by 1 Justice — Anthony Kennedy — because he is the only one that is unpredictable and that sometimes votes with the conservatives and sometimes with the liberals. While the affirmative action case was clearly decided by 4 to 3, the 4 to 4 decision on Obama’s executive actions on immigration (DACA and DAPA) is inconclusive and will probably need to be reheard when (and if) a new Justice is appointed to replace Antonin Scalia, making it 9 again.

In the meantime, the consequences are many. One, our immigration system will continue to be broken. Two, the lives of many decent, hard-working undocumented Latinos will continue to be plagued by fear of deportation and living with divided families. Three, the job prospects of many decent American citizens — of all races — will continue to be damaged by the presence of a cheaper and more vulnerable labor force. Last, the rightful aspirations of young, undocumented Latinos who grew up American for a good college education will be truncated.

We hope that the President and Congress will be able to appoint a new Justice right away so that our nation need not continue to suffer these serious consequences.”

Contact: 734-647-3659,



Richard Primus is an expert in the law, history and theory of the U.S. Constitution and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He’s available to discuss the opinions in the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

“Fisher is the triumph of Justice Ginsburg’s perspective on affirmative action,” he said. “Race-conscious decision making is now clearly acceptable.”

Contact: 734-647-5543 (after June 26),; through June 26, call Jared Wadley, 734-936-7819

Richard Friedman, the Alene and Allan F. Smith Professor of Law, is an expert on evidence and U.S. Supreme Court history.

“Justice Kennedy’s opinion for a bare majority of a seven-member Court seems designed to resolve this particular litigation, which has a unique history, and decide as little else as possible,” he said. “Even the University of Texas cannot be sure that its program would survive another challenge in several years.

“Perhaps the most notable aspects of the opinion are that Justice Kennedy embraces the benefits of holistic admissions processes that consider race and that he suggests that Top Ten Percent plans like Texas’ are constitutionally vulnerable.”

Contact: 734-476-4586,