Agency Title VI Briefs and Decisions

Agency Title VI Briefs and Decisions

Seal, U.S. Department of Justice

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Lower Court Ruling Enjoining Indiana from Withholding Payment for Services to Syrian Refugees:

On October 3, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a district court ruling in Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. v. Pence et al., 1:15-cv-01858 (7th Cir. Oct. 3, 2016) enjoining Indiana from withholding payments to private refugee resettlement agencies for services provided to Syrian refugees. Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc., a resettlement agency, filed suit alleging the State’s actions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Refugee Act of 1980.

The United States filed briefs in the district court proceedings and at the appellate level.  Both briefs argued that the discriminatory treatment of Syrian refugees violates prohibitions of discrimination based on alienage, national origin, and nationality. In order to survive an equal protection or Title VI challenge, such discriminatory treatment must be narrowly tailored to achieving a compelling state interest. The briefs make clear that, while preserving safety and security is a compelling interest, Indiana’s policy of withholding payments for services provided to Syrian refugees is not narrowly tailored to protect that interest and therefore would violate the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI. The district court found that the State’s conduct “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.” In affirming the lower court, the 7th Circuit also found the state’s alleged safety and security concerns to be unfounded and unsupported. 

In a related matter, the United States had raised similar Title VI concerns in Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851, a lawsuit in which Texas sought to prevent the federal government and refugee resettlement agencies from placing Syrian refugees in the state. In preliminary orders, the district court ruled in favor of the United States, declining to “interfere with the executive’s discharge of its foreign affairs and national security duties” in the absence of a demonstration of a substantial threat of irreparable injury or legal right to relief. See Order denying Motion for Injunction, Tex. Health & Human Servs. Comm’n v. United States, No. 3:15-cv-3851 (DCG) (N.D. Tex. Feb. 8, 2016), ECF No. 70.  In June 2016, the court dismissed the state’s lawsuit in its entirety.  On August 12, Texas appealed the ruling; however on October 7, Texas withdrew its appeal.

Department of Justice Files Brief Clarifying Intentional Discrimination Standards under Title VI:

On September 26, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ (EOS and FCS), filed a brief in Methelus v. School Board of Collier County, Fl., (M.D. Fla.) addressing discrimination under Title VI and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA). The underlying complaint alleged that the school board denied recently-arrived immigrant high school age students equal educational opportunities based on national origin by denying them entry to the local high school and directing them instead to fee-based adult English language courses. The Department’s brief clarifies the applicable standard under the EEOA as established under Castañeda v. Pickard, 648 F.2d 989 (5th Cir. 1981); the application of Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266 (1977), in a Title VI intent case involving a neutral policy; and the correct interpretation of Mumid v. Abraham Lincoln High Sch., 618 F.3d 789 (8th Cir. 2010). The brief is available at go.usa.gov/xKz46.

Department of Justice Files Brief to Enforce Summary Judgment in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, AZ, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: 

On September 16, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ filed a brief as appellee in United States v. Maricopa, No. 15-17558 (9th Cir. Sept. 16, 2016), to affirm summary judgment in favor of the United States (go.usa.gov/xkGcD). On appeal, the Department argues that Maricopa County is directly liable for the unlawful policies of its sheriff, and that the district court correctly applied the doctrine of offensive, non-mutual issue preclusion to resolve the merits. 

The Department brought this case under 42 U.S.C. 14141 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discriminatory law enforcement conduct. In December 2015, the county appealed the lower court’s ruling as to the county’s liability for Sheriff Arpaio’s and MCSO’s policies and conduct.  The county also appealed the court’s ruling that the county is precluded from re-litigating the court’s findings in Melendres v. Arpaio, a parallel action by private plaintiffs alleging intentional discrimination against Hispanic individuals when MCSO conducted immigration-related law enforcement during traffic stops. 989 F.Supp 2d 822 (D. Ariz. 2013), aff’d in part and vacated in part on other grounds, 784 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir.) (Melendres II), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct 79 (2015). The brief is available at go.usa.gov/xkGc4.

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