Volume 50, Issue 4

4 posts

An Assault on the Fundamental Right to Parenthood and Birthright Citizenship: An Equal Protection Analysis of the Recent Ban of the Matrícula Consular in Texas’ Birth Certificate Application Policy

By Cathy Liu

Recent changes in Texas’s birth certificate application policy have made it nearly impossible for hundreds — and perhaps thousand — of undocumented immigrants to obtain birth certificates for their U.S.-born children. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has implemented a policy banning state registrars from accepting the matrícula consular (matrícula) as an identifying document applicants may present as part of the state’s birth certificate application process. Matrículas are consular identification cards issued by Mexican consulates to citizens of Mexico living outside of the country. They are widely-accepted as a reliable form of identification and are often the only identification available to undocumented immigrants. Without alternative forms of ID, undocumented parents cannot satisfy the policy’s identification verification procedure and consequently cannot obtain birth certificates for their children.

Undocumented parents lacking birth certificates for their children cannot fully access their fundamental right to parenthood, which includes the right to make decisions on how best to raise and care for their children. Enrolling a child in schools and daycare and obtaining public benefits like Medicaid and Section 8 housing assistance all require presentation of that child’s birth certificate. In addition, although the children affected by the changes are citizens by virtue of being born in the U.S., they cannot fully exercise their rights as citizens, including the right to travel interstate, to receive a public education as well as the right to work. Furthermore, the policy may, in some instances, have the effect of denaturalizing U.S.-born children, thereby depriving them of their statuses as U.S.–citizens.

This Note provides an Equal Protection analysis of Section 181, the provision of the Texas Administrative Code that codifies this new policy. Part I explains the recent changes in Texas’ birth certificate application procedures. Part II provides an overview of the Equal Protection Clause. Parts III through V argue that the new Texas policy violates the Equal Protection Clause. This Note first argues that strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review in analyzing the constitutionality of the policy. It then argues that the policy fails to survive strict scrutiny review because it fails to further a compelling state interest, is underinclusive in its attempt to prevent fraud, and because less discriminatory alternatives can as effectively deter identity crimes and fraud.

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Still Underwater: The Need for Temporary Foreclosure and Mortgage Relief for Victims of Future Natural Disasters

By Jason M. Sugarman

Over four years ago, Superstorm Sandy decimated New York and New Jersey. Homes were destroyed, individuals were displaced, and the costs of repairing damaged properties were enormous. Many Superstorm Sandy victims could not maintain their monthly mortgage payments, and as a result faced foreclosure.

This Note proposes that New Jersey adopt legislation providing temporary foreclosure and mortgage relief to victims of future natural disasters. Part II of this Note describes FEMA;s origination and its role in assisting natural disaster victims. Part III outlines Superstorm Sandy‘s destructiveness and its impact on homeowners. Part IV explains the National Flood Insurance Program and specifically why so many Superstorm Sandy victims had underpaid flood insurance claims. Part V describes HUD’s role in helping natural disaster victims and the state sponsored programs in New York and New Jersey that used grants from HUD to assist Superstorm Sandy victims. Parts VI and VII outline additional problems, such as foreclosure, that Superstorm Sandy victims faced while trying to return to their homes. Part VIII examines New Jersey legislation that provides temporary foreclosure and mortgage relief for Superstorm Sandy victims. Finally, Part IX describes the terms of this Note‘s legislative proposal and the policy basis for enacting temporary foreclosure and mortgage relief for victims of future natural disasters.

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Shielded from Justice: How State Attorneys General Can Provide Structural Remedies to the Criminal Prosecutions of Police Officers

By Isaac G. Lara

The recent string of police shootings involving unarmed civilians has prompted national outcry over the actions of law enforcement officials. Many state and local law enforcement agencies today are reexamining the way prosecutors handle these incidents. In most jurisdictions today, District Attorneys are responsible for investigating such cases, which is problematic given the reciprocal relationship that exists between District Attorneys and law enforcement agencies. Specifically, District Attorneys rely on police officers to make arrests, interrogate suspects and testify at trial. In turn, police officers rely on District Attorneys to translate their arrests into convictions. This relationship creates a real or perceived conflict-of-interest, which can severely undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.

State Attorneys General, however, may provide structural solutions to this problem. To illustrate this, this Note conducts a broad survey of the five major categories of actions that State Attorneys General can use during investigations into police shootings. This Note also offers recommendations as to how State Attorneys General can improve on current practices to ensure fair investigations and outcomes. Recommendations include appointing a special prosecutor from a different district; launching a conflict-of-interest inquiry; cooperating with the federal government in devising a national database of police shootings; and reexamining the legal parameters of the use of force.

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Rethinking Judicial Review of Arbitration

By Nico Gurian

Mandatory arbitration is everywhere in the daily life of most Americans — when they sign a cell phone contract, buy a cable subscription, or sign up for a checking account. For most Americans, there is no avenue to acquire these basic goods and services without giving up the right to litigate disputes before a court of law. The increased use of mandatory arbitration clauses is not an accident. Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s expansive interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act over the last few decades, businesses have used mandatory arbitration clauses to insulate themselves from liability by, for example, including class-action waiver provisions in arbitration agreements that can make it financially impossible for plaintiffs to bring substantive claims.

A key aspect of the current arbitral system is that arbitrators’ decisions are subject to extremely limited judicial review, which is an underlying assumption of both Supreme Court jurisprudence and scholarship in this area. This Note seeks to question that assumption. First, it considers traditional rationales for limited judicial review of arbitral decisions and argues that these justifications fail to take into account the realities of the current arbitral system. Second, borrowing from administrative law, it offers a proposal for how states could tailor a system of increased judicial review of arbitration decisions that would better promote fairness while preserving the positive effects of arbitration.

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