[formatting and hyperlinks added]
Those questions in much of their complexity lie at the heart of two recently published books: Philippa Strum’s Mendez v. Westminster: School Desegregation and Mexican American Rights [University of Kansas Press, 2010], and Michael Olivas’s No Undocumented Child Left Behind: Plyler v. Doe and the Education of Undocumented Children [New York University Press, 2012]. Mendez was decided on the heels of World War II, amidst a thawing in race relations and the NAACP’s ongoing strategy to dismantle segregated schools, at a time when the courts were increasingly open to their challenges. Plyler was decided in 1982, just after the country had elected the most conservative president since the Great Depression and right when the courts would begin in earnest their rightward journey with a blitz of the conservative judicial appointments. In this sense, the two cases could be read as bookends in the modern liberal era of the judiciary. Taken together, these two books cast an important light on the persistent problem of the color-line that an expanding Latino population has posed and will continue to pose for the United States. In their own way, Strum and Olivas deal with issues of race and inclusion, immigration and citizenship, the worth of an education as the bedrock of American Democracy, federalism – and the ability of the courts to help navigate the country through those rocky, collective shoals.
Read on here.