Asian American Students File to Join Harvard Lawsuit and Defend Affirmative Action

Cross-posting from reappropriate.co. Read the full post here.

Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) held a press conference moments ago to announce that lawyers with the group will represent two prospective Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) high school students, both seeking to present their support of race-conscious affirmative action admission before the Supreme Court if and when the justices hear arguments next year about an anti-affirmative action lawsuit filed against the school by Edward Blum, the architect behind Abigail Fisher’s earlier failed attempts to dismantle affirmative action before the Court.

The two AAPI high school students represented by AAAJ-LA are current applicants to Harvard University, and both believe that race-conscious affirmative action is beneficial; AAAJ-LA filed paperwork yesterday to help the students join an existing group of diverse students who will have “amicus plus” status to present their support for affirmative action in a pending anti-affirmative action case, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc v. President and Fellows of Harvard College.

In the Students for Fair Admissions case, lobbyist Edward Blum specifically recruited disgruntled Asian American students to serve as the next Abigail Fisher, in hopes of weaponizing a stereotyped, Model Minority Myth narrative of Asian Americans against other students of colour. Blum’s lawsuit alleging bias at Harvard was ultimately consolidated around the case of a still-unnamed Chinese American woman.

“Asian Americans are being exploited, and not to the Asian American community’s benefit,” said Jay Chen, a Harvard Alumnus & Mt. San Antonio College Trustee.

Read the full post here.

Advisory: Asian Americans File to Join Harvard Lawsuit

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) will file a motion on behalf of two Asian American and Pacific Islander Harvard applicants, to participate in the lawsuit challenging race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University.

The motion seeks permission for Advancing Justice-LA and the students to join a diverse group of students who support Affirmative action and will have special “amicus plus” status before the court.

Tuesday, December 13 at 10:30 a.m.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles
First Floor Community Room
1145 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, 90017
(Located on the corner of Lucas Ave. and Wilshire Blvd.)
RSVP to Jeff DeGuia at jdeguia@advancingjustice-la. org

Scheduled speakers at the press conference:
Jason Fong, Harvard Applicant and Prospective Student Amici
David Fong, Parent of Prospective Student Amici
Nicole Ochi, Supervising Attorney, Advancing Justice – LA
Jay Chen, Harvard Alumnus & Mt. San Antonio College Trustee (*invited)

Originally filed in 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, alleges that Harvard’s admissions policy intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants and violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally funded entities from discriminating based on race or ethnicity. Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unidentified Chinese American student whose Harvard application was rejected. However, many Chinese and other Asian Americans support race conscious admissions, and the plaintiffs and Advancing Justice-LA are seeking involvement in this case to represent those views.

After Fisher: Affirmative Action and Asian American Students

By Michele S. Moses, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, University of Colorado

After eight years, the Abigail Fisher case finally has been put to rest. In a landmark judgment on June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious affirmative action in university admissions.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman, had sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) for its race-conscious admissions policy after she was denied admission. She had argued that the university violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Supporters of race-conscious admissions programs are understandably gratified. But has the case resolved the larger moral and political disagreements over affirmative action?

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which supports colorblind policies, has already called the decision just “a temporary setback.”

Indeed, over the last 40 years, affirmative action opponents have repeatedly strategized anew after important Supreme Court decisions in favor of affirmative action. They did so after the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, when the Supreme Court, while allowing race to be one of the factors in choosing a diverse student body, held the use of quotas to be “impermissible.“

And they did so after the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, when the high court again ruled that race-conscious affirmative action was constitutional.

We are scholars who study affirmative action, race, and diversity in higher education. We believe that the disagreement about affirmative action will not end anytime soon. And it may well center on lawsuits on behalf of Asian-American college applicants.

Here is what is coming next

Through his organization, the Project on Fair Representation, Abigail Fisher’s advisor, Edward Blum, is currently engaged in a lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions policy.

What is different about the Harvard lawsuit is that the lead plaintiff in the case is not a white student. The plaintiff is an Asian-American student.

Asian-Americans participate in an Advancing Justice conference.
Advancing Justice Conference, CC BY-NC-SA

“Students for Fair Admissions,” an arm of the Project on Fair Representation, filed a suit against Harvard College on November 17, 2014, on behalf of a Chinese-American applicant who had been rejected from Harvard. The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally funded entities from discriminating based on race or ethnicity.

The “Harvard University Not Fair” website greets readers with a photo of an Asian-American student accompanied by the following text:

“Were you denied admission to Harvard? It may be because you’re the wrong race.”

How it started

This controversy over how Asian-Americans are being treated in selective college admission was jump-started in 2005, when sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung published findings from their study on the effects of affirmative action bans on the racial and ethnic composition of student bodies at selective colleges and universities.

Espenshade and Chung found that if affirmative action were to be eliminated, the acceptance rates for black and Latino applicants would likely decrease substantially, while the acceptance rate for white applicants would increase slightly. But more than that, what they noted was that the acceptance rate for Asian-American applicants would increase the most by far.

As the researchers explained, Asian-American students “would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African-American and Hispanic students.”

Such research has been cited to support claims of admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans.

In the complaint against Harvard, Espenshade’s research was cited as evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Specifically, the lawsuit cited research from 2009 in which Espenshade, this time with coauthor Alexandria Radford, found that Asian-American applicants accepted at selective colleges had higher standardized test scores, on average, than other accepted students.

Are elite institutions discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions process?
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

These findings, especially that Asian-American applicants seem to need a higher SAT score than white applicants or other applicants of color in order to be admitted to a selective college are being used as proof that elite institutions like Harvard are discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions processes.

The picture is more complicated

As we know, selective admissions processes are much more complicated than SAT score data can show. There are many factors that are taken into consideration for college admission.

For example, in the “holistic” admissions processes endorsed by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, standardized text scores are not the only, or even the main, criterion for admission. “Holistic” review takes many relevant factors into account, including academic achievement, of course, but also factors such as a commitment to public service, overcoming difficult life circumstances, achievements in the arts or athletics, or leadership qualities.

So, why would the plaintiff in the Harvard case conclude that the disparities in SAT scores shown by Espenshade and Radford necessarily indicate that Asian-American applicants are being harmed by race-conscious affirmative action?

Legal scholar William Kidder has shown that the way Espenshade and Radford’s findings have been interpreted by affirmative action opponents is not accurate. The interpretation of this research itself rests on the faulty assumption that affirmative action is to blame if an academically accomplished Asian-American applicant gets rejected from an elite institution.

Based on his analysis, Kidder concluded,

“Exaggerated claims about the benefits for APAs [Asian Pacific Americans] of ending affirmative action foster a divisive public discourse in which APAs are falsely portrayed as natural adversaries of affirmative action and the interests of African American and Latinos in particular.”

In our opinion as well, focusing on simplistic ideas about standardized tests as the primary evidence for who “deserves” to be admitted to elite institutions like Harvard may serve to stir up resentment among accomplished applicants who get rejected.

As the “Harvard Not Fair” website and accompanying lawsuit demonstrate, these findings have been used to fuel a politics of resentment among rejected Asian-American applicants.

When speaking with reporters, Espenshade himself has acknowledged that his data are incomplete – given that colleges take myriad factors into account in admissions decisions – and his findings have been overinterpreted and actually do not prove that colleges discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

Are Asian-American students a monolithic group?
Charlie Nguyen, CC BY

Moreover, in using images of Asian-American students to recruit complainants against Harvard and other highly selective institutions of higher education, the Project on Fair Representation relies on the idea that Asian-Americans comprise a monolithic group. In fact, the term “Asian-American” refers to a diversity of Asian ethnicities in the United States, whose educational opportunities and achievements vary widely.

The 2010 census question on race included check boxes for six Asian groups – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese – along with a box for “Other Asian,” with a prompt for detailed responses such as “Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, and so on.”

In addition, by casting plaintiffs as meritorious and deserving of a spot at an elite university, it also conveys the stereotypical received wisdom about Asian-American “model” students who are wronged by race-conscious affirmative action programs.

The Harvard lawsuit comes next

At this time, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is pending.

Now that Fisher has been decided, this case is the next front in the divisive politics surrounding race-conscious affirmative action in higher education admissions.

Relevant to the Harvard case is that a civil rights complaint alleging that Princeton University discriminates against Asian-American applicants was dismissed in 2015 after a long federal Office of Civil Rights investigation.

Although public disagreement about the policy continues, affirmative action is an imperfect, but as yet necessary tool that universities can leverage to cultivate robust and diverse spaces where students learn. June 23’s Fisher ruling underscores that important idea.

Related to the coming public discussions about the Harvard lawsuit, we are of the opinion that race-conscious policies like affirmative action need to be supported. The fact is that “Asian-Americans” have diverse social and educational experiences. And many Asian-Americans benefit from affirmative action policies.The Conversation

Michele S. Moses, Professor of Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Post Doctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

全國亞太裔組織稱讚最高法院在平權法案一案中的決定

亞美公義促進中心(簡稱Advancing Justice)、亞裔美國人法律保護和教育基金會(簡稱AALDEF)及全國亞太裔律師協會(簡稱NAPABA)共同稱讚最高法院今日在“費雪訴德克薩斯大學”(Fisher v. University of Texas)一案中所發表的意見。法院以四票對三票讚成將種族因素納入大學錄取過程對申請者的全面考慮之中。

“今天,最高法院認可了考慮種族因素的錄取政策對於確保我國高等教育學府多樣性的重要作用。”NAPABA會長Jin Y. Hwang表示,“作為有色人種律師,我們看到了這些政策對於法律工作者的有益影響,我們也意識到高等教育的多樣性對於確保我們能夠擁有更多有才華的律師與法官服務各個社區的重要性。”

艾比蓋.費雪 (Abigail Fisher),此次平權法案一案的主角,一位被德克薩斯大學拒絕的白人學生,聲稱自己因種族問題受到歧視。Advancing Justice、AALDEF及NAPABA共提交了三份非當事人意見陳述,支持大學在審閱入學申請時參考種族等因素的全面評審方式。這些陳述代表了160多個亞太美(AAPI)組織對於高等教育領域平權法案的支持意見。 Continue reading “全國亞太裔組織稱讚最高法院在平權法案一案中的決定”

National AAPI Organizatons Applaud Supreme Court Decision in Affirmative Action Case

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion released today in Fisher v. University of Texas.

The Court ruled in favor of the consideration of race as part of a holistic review of an applicant in university admissions processes.

“Today the Supreme Court affirmed the important role race-conscious admissions policies have in ensuring diversity in our nation’s colleges and universities,” said NAPABA president Jin Y. Hwang. “As lawyers of color, we see the beneficial impacts of these policies every day in the legal workforce, and we recognize that diversity in higher education is critical to ensuring we have a pipeline of talented lawyers and judges able to serve their communities.”

The case centers on the claim by Abigail Fisher, a white student denied admission to the University of Texas, that she was discriminated against by virtue of her race. Advancing Justice, AALDEF and NAPABA filed three separate amicus briefs in support of the University’s use of race as a factor among many factors taken into consideration as part of a holistic review of an application for admission. Together, the briefs represented more than 160 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations in support of affirmative action in higher education.

“We are gratified the Supreme Court has recognized the ongoing relevance of race as one of several factors in the college admissions process and the importance of a highly-qualified and diverse student body,” commented Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. “We are glad that Justice Kennedy recognized that the consideration of race may be beneficial to any UT-Austin applicant, including Asian American applicants and, citing AALDEF’s amicus brief, noted that Fisher’s assertion that the university discriminates against Asian Americans is “entirely unsupported by evidence in the record or empirical data.” Ms. Fung continued, “UT’s individualized review of applicants will continue to benefit Asian Americans and avoid harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth.”

Contrary to popular and damaging beliefs that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are universally successful in academics and enjoy easy access to universities, many AAPIs, including Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, face serious barriers to higher education. Race-conscious admissions programs open the doors of higher education and continue to benefit many AAPI students today. No evidence in the record from Fisher supports the erroneous claim that AAPIs are harmed by the university’s use of holistic admissions. In fact, the opposite is true.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges the continued need for affirmative action policies that make it possible for students of all backgrounds, including many historically disadvantaged Asian American and Pacific Islanders, to access higher education and create a stronger country through their contributions to a diverse society,” said Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-AAJC.

Today’s ruling is a victory for all Americans. Affirmative action policies have been used as an effective tool to promote equality, ensure qualified students from all backgrounds get a fair chance at higher education, and acknowledge that race is relevant context in considering an individual’s application. With today’s decision, the most vulnerable AAPI students, along with other students of color, will continue to have equal opportunity to enter the institutions that shape tomorrow’s leaders, and we continue to affirm that race, as distinct from class, matters.

“In a world where people of color are killed at alarmingly disproportionate rates, students of color are taking much needed action to improve the racial climate on school campuses, and public discourse about race has rightfully taken center stage on a national level, we need race conscious policies now more than ever,” says Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-LA.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice-AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice-Chicago, and Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 50,000 attorneys and over 75 national, state, and local bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA engages in legislative and policy advocacy, promotes Asian Pacific American political leadership and political appointments, and builds coalitions within the legal profession and the community at large. NAPABA also serves as a resource for government agencies, members of Congress, and public service organizations about Asian Pacific Americans in the legal profession, civil rights, and diversity in the courts.

More than 150 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Organizations Support Affirmative Action in Higher Education

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and 25 of its national member organizations* stand for equal opportunity and joined an open letter of more than 150 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) groups to support affirmative action in higher education.

This letter is in response to recent anti-affirmative action administrative complaints filed against Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale universities. The letter emphasizes that affirmative action does not constitute quotas, limit students of any ethnic or racial backgrounds, or discriminate against Asian Americans. Rather, affirmative action promotes equal opportunity for all.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans joins 25 of our members, other AANHPI groups and communities of color to support affirmative action in higher education,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders benefit from being in diverse communities, and diversity makes our nation stronger. We cannot demand equal opportunity in our boardrooms, in government, and in the media, and then turn around and oppose affirmative action in higher education. Our community will not be used as a wedge against access to higher education.”

The Supreme Court also is expected to rule soon in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which is a constitutional challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s equal opportunity admissions policy. NCAPA has joined an amicus brief in this case. On the day of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, NCAPA urged the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions program, and Kang spoke at a National Action Network rally.

Read today’s letter, learn more about affirmative action and show your support here.

*The 25 NCAPA members who signed on are: Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA), Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Center for APA Women (CAPAW), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), Hmong National Development (HND), Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP), National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP), National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans Calls on Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas, which is a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policies, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) urges the Supreme Court to uphold this program.

This morning, Asian American leaders Christopher Kang, national director of NCAPA, and Eugene Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, spoke at a National Action Network rally on the steps of the Supreme Court in support of affirmative action.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans stands side by side with other communities of color in support of affirmative action in higher education, and we urge the Supreme Court to uphold such policies, which benefit all Americans,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Diversity makes our nation stronger–from education and the workplace to the boardroom and the Supreme Court itself–and we will not be used as a wedge against equal opportunities and access in higher education.”

“Asian Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of affirmative action – by a count of 69% according to a survey we co-authored in 2014,” said Eugene F. Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The goal of achieving diversity in education is one that benefits all Americans and is still a goal worthy of striving for. Asian Americans are often held up as an example of a group that is adversely affected by race-conscious admissions policies, but this is simply misinformation and an attempt to hold up AAPIs as a wedge group.”

“The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association strongly urges the Supreme Court to uphold the long-standing precedent that diversity is a compelling interest in college admission policies, and to uphold the University of Texas-Austin’s admissions plan,” said NAPABA President Jin Y. Hwang. “As future leaders and custodians of the legal system, it is important that students have wide-ranging experiences, engage with diverse populations, and be representative of varied backgrounds. As current events demonstrate, it is equally imperative that today’s students develop empathy, understanding, and acceptance — traits which will become essential throughout their lives and careers.”

Last month, NCAPA joined Asian Americans Advancing Justice in its Supreme Court amicus brief supporting affirmative action in higher education admission policies. Sixteen NCAPA members, led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, were among the more than 160 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander organizations that joined briefs in this important case. 69 percent of Asian Americans approve of race-conscious admissions policies.

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Reaffirms Support for Race-Conscious Admissions As Supreme Court Revisits Affirmative Action

Asian Americans will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise, and divide students of color

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Fisher v. Texas for a second time, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) stands firm in supporting equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education.

“Opponents of affirmative action continue to use Asian American students as a racial wedge by peddling the myth that affirmative action hurts Asian American students by placing quotas on their admissions into elite colleges in favor of African American and Latino students. This is an absolute lie,” says Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Quotas, in fact, have been unconstitutional for decades and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students have historically benefitted, and continue to benefit from affirmative action policies.”

Contrary to the ‘model minority’ myth, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students need race-conscious admissions programs. In California, for example, the admit rates of Filipino, Thai, Laotian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students into the University of California (UC) system are significantly lower than the general admit rate.

Additionally, relative to their overall population, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians/Chamorros, and Fijians are underrepresented in the UC system. This intraracial disparity is not unlike those affecting the AAPI community in Texas. The increased racial diversity and improved racial climate produced by race-conscious admission programs benefit all AAPI students, including those who do not benefit directly from affirmative action programs.

Affirmative action in higher education consists of race-conscious holistic admissions policies. As one of several factors in a holistic review of an individual’s college application including leadership and potential, affirmative action takes into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity. It also considers whether an applicant has endured poverty or is the first in their family to attend college.

Any holistic admissions policy without the consideration of race does not create a race-neutral admissions program. Test scores, for instance, are not an accurate nor race-neutral measure of merit. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

According to a recent study, race is the single most important factor in a student’s SAT scores, even more determinative than socioeconomic status and parental education levels.

“Race still matters in American life and all students benefit from a racially and ethnically diverse learning environment, including increased cross-racial understanding, reduction of stereotyping and isolation of minority students, and training for a diverse workforce and society,” said Ochi.

For additional comments, the following experts from Advancing Justice can be reached at:

Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
lhoq@advancingjustice-la.org

Nicole Gon Ochi, Supervising Attorney
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
nochi@advancingjustice-la.org

Betty Hung, Policy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
bhung@advancingjustice-la.org

Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
chrisp@advancingjustice-alc.org

Aarti Kohli, Deputy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
aartik@advancingjustice-alc.org

Mee Moua, President and executive director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
comrequests@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

160+ AAPI Groups File Legal Briefs with U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Affirmative Action

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), have filed three separate amicus briefs urging the nation’s highest court to uphold University of Texas at Austin’s (UT-Austin) affirmative action policy.

Together, the briefs represent over 160 organizations in support of equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education, representing the tremendous diversity within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including Arab, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. In addition, the briefs represent 53 individuals, including higher education faculty and officials.

FAQs on AAPIs and the Fisher case

“With long histories of serving the most vulnerable members of our community, these organizations range from large, pan-Asian national organizations and professional associations, to student and grassroots groups,” says Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “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.”

The amicus brief filed by Advancing Justice argues that an applicant cannot be evaluated holistically without the consideration of race. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

The brief also shows how race conscious admissions programs opened the doors of higher education for AAPI students after a century of discrimination and exclusion and continue to benefit many AAPI students who face significant educational barriers today.

A closer look at disaggregated data reveals large disparities in educational attainment among Asian American ethnic groups. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the educational attainment of Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans is the lowest among Asian American ethnic groups and similar to those of Latinos and African Americans. Only 61 percent of Hmong Americans hold a high school diploma, while only 12 percent of Laotian Americans have graduated from college.

“Supporters of Fisher have mischaracterized UT-Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy. It can benefit Asian Americans through an individualized review of applicants that avoids harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth,” says AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung.

As summarized in AALDEF’s amicus brief: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders–a unique cross-section of identities and experiences that spans a range of comparative privilege and disadvantage–benefit from this individualized approach to admissions, as do African Americans, Latinos, and Whites.” The AALDEF amicus brief also distinguishes between the two distinct concepts of negative action and affirmative action, noting there is no evidence in the record of discrimination by UT-Austin.

“We recognize that Asian Pacific Americans, like other groups, have endured cases of discrimination and lack of opportunities which continue to impact us today. The low numbers of minority groups in the legal profession, government, and corporate leadership underscore the need to remove barriers to higher education and increase diversity,” says George C. Chen, president of NAPABA.

“Courtrooms, law firms, and law schools must be filled with people of different backgrounds so that we can better understand and respect the diversity of the American public.”

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that universities may consider race as part of a holistic review process to increase racial diversity on campus. When instructed to look more carefully at whether UT-Austin tried other methods of achieving greater racial diversity before considering race, the 5th Circuit determined that UT-Austin’s efforts to increase racial diversity through race-neutral means (e.g. “Top Ten Percent” Plan) did not result in the qualitative diversity that it sought, and therefore, upheld the University’s use of race as a factor in its holistic admissions policy.

Fisher appealed this decision forcing a second hearing of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

The Asian American Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) amicus brief represents 141 Asian American organizations, student groups, and bar associations, as well as, 9 members of academia. Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit www.advancingjustice-la.org.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) amicus brief represents 21 Asian American education and youth-serving groups, including the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association and the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective at UT-Austin, and 44 higher education faculty and officials. Foley Hoag LLP served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit http://aaldef.org.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) amicus brief, filed by the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC), consisting of NAPABA, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), highlights the importance of race conscious admissions policies in order to preserve a diverse pipeline of individuals into the legal profession. For a copy, visit, www.napaba.org.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of approximately 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

U.S. Education Dept. Dismisses Complaint

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed the complaint filed in May by groups alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans, according to news reports.

NBCNews.com cites a department spokesperson saying that the complaint was dismissed because it mimics an ongoing lawsuit.

Betty Hung from our coalition, which supports affirmative action in higher education, was quoted in the NBCNews.com story:

Betty Hung, policy director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil rights group, said she welcomed news that the U.S. Department of Education had closed the complaint against Harvard, but added that she remained troubled over the lawsuit’s intent to end affirmative action at Harvard and other American universities.

“Affirmative action policies help to level the playing field and to promote diverse university learning environments that are essential in our multiracial and multicultural society,” Hung, a 1993 Harvard College graduate, told NBC News in an email.

Equal opportunity is a cherished principle in American society that must be protected. Our universities should reflect our diverse democracy and expand opportunities for those students who have overcome significant barriers. Rather than letting ourselves be divided, we must come together to ensure increased opportunities and success for all students.

Learn more about this issue and join us in representing the majority of Asian Americans that support affirmative action in higher education.