Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Civil rights legend Judge William Wayne Justice of Tyler, Texas has died at age 89. The appropriately names Judge Justice presided over the trial in teh case that became the landmark Plyler v. Doe (1982), which to this day ensures that undocumented children have access to a public K-12 education.
As the Austin Statesman reports:
"In 1977, Doe v. Plyler landed in Justice's court after the Tyler school district refused to admit children of undocumented immigrants unless they paid $1,000 in tuition, an impossible feat for immigrant families who earned an average of only $4,000 a year at that time in Texas. The state had outlawed free education for noncitizens in 1975. But Justice ruled, in the first federal opinion of its kind, that undocumented children and young adults have the same right as U.S. citizens to attend school in Texas. Appeals landed the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Justice's decision. The landmark ruling extended the education right nationwide. `We've had more cases involving discrimination, I suppose, in Texas than most other Southern states,' Justice told the Statesman. `We've had discrimination against blacks and against Mexican Americans. You name it; we discriminate against it until somebody tries to correct it. `I thought injustice was being done (with the $1,000 tuition law). It was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld me 5-4. As a result of that decision, I think probably several million children got an education. And that's the case I'm most proud of.'"
Hattip to Cappy White!