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Immigration Law Giant Peter Schey Dies at 77

April 03, 2024 (2 min read)

Juan José Gutiérrez, La Educacion, Apr. 2, 2024

"Today at 1:15 in the afternoon the heart of a giant of jurisprudence stopped beating. He alludes to the lawyer defending human rights, civil rights and constitutional law, the great friend of Mexico and Latin American immigrants, lawyer Peter Schey. He was 77 years old. Schey was born in the Republic of South Africa, on March 23, 1947. He came with his parents, who emigrated to the United States. Upon graduating from high school in 1966, he applied for and was admitted to pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in 1970. Additionally, in 1973 he completed his studies at the law school at the California Western School. of Law. His career as a jurist began in 1973. He practiced law at the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, where he had legal representation of low-income immigrants, until 1978, when he moved to the City. of Los Angeles, where he founded the National Immigration Law Center. ... In 1980, Schey founded and became president and CEO of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. He remained at the head of this important institution for 44 years and 4 months. In these four decades, Schey filed Class Action lawsuits in favor of the constitutional rights of millions of immigrants from various parts of the world, but especially Mexicans and Latin Americans. I will mention three examples:

1.- In 1994, the Californian political extreme right adopted a fascist, racist and cruel policy against undocumented immigrants and created Proposition 187, which was approved by a majority of the state electorate in November of that year. This resolution denied medical care, social services and education to people suspected of having entered California irregularly. However, the day after its approval, this ordinance was stopped in court by a lawsuit led by Peter Schey and known as League of United Latin American Citizens v. Wilson. After a severe legal battle, this very important lawsuit prevented said proposal from being implemented, which meant a major offense to the migrant community. In July 1999, Democratic Governor Gray Davis reached an agreement with leaders of pro-immigrant organizations and his lawyers and gave up appealing the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that had declared it unconstitutional. And therefore, this disastrous Proposition was canceled without it ever being able to be implemented.

2.- Another legal case, known under the title Flores v. Reno established a minimum standard of quality of life for undocumented immigrant children detained in the United States and recognized the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law as the only nongovernmental organization authorized to certify that detention centers housing any undocumented minor met the agreed minimum standards and also established the prompt release of the minors and that they could be delivered to relatives residing in the United States as soon as possible.

3.- I cannot close this remembrance of Schey without mentioning the case known as Plyler v. Doe. Schey participated in this lawsuit and it was filed because in 1977 the State of Texas ordered that in the public school system, children who did not provide proof of being citizens of the United States would have to pay the school district, to which their school belonged, one thousand dollars. or would not be allowed access to the instruction.

In 1982, the US Supreme Court ruled that 'a state cannot prevent the children of undocumented immigrants from attending public school.' "