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WASHINGTON— A group of national civil rights and Latino organizations filed an amicus brief on Friday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia defending an internship program for undergraduate students offered by the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino that aims to expand opportunities for careers in museums. Civil rights legal organizations, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs filed the “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Afro Latino Forum, ASPIRA National, and the Hispanic Federation in American Alliance for Equal Rights v. Zamanillo, et al.

The plaintiff in the case seeks a preliminary injunction to stop an internship program run by the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino. The program aims to increase the entry of Latinos into museum careers. The plaintiff claims that the program has a non-Latino bias and thereby violates the Equal Protection Clause. The founder of the plaintiff organization, Edward Blum, was a central figure in perpetuating challenges to affirmative action and diversity policies in educational and work settings, as well as charitable giving and voting rights. Blum founded the group Students for Fair Admissions, which sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, resulting in the Supreme Court case that severely curtailed race-conscious university admissions.

The brief posits that “the plaintiff essentially asks that the Equal Protection Clause be used as a bludgeon to deter equal opportunity” and that Latino students who participate in the internship program do not take away opportunities from non-Latinos. They are poised to bring fresh perspectives in the future to the preservation of our collective American story.” 

“This lawsuit attacks efforts to remedy racial discrimination and is part of an assault on civil rights progress,” said Katy Youker, Director for the Economic Justice Project with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Smithsonian created the internship program to expand opportunities for Latino students in the museum field, recognizing their gross underrepresentation. Blum’s complaint is attempting to take our country back to a time of widespread segregation in our schools and workplaces. We expect the Court to reject the plaintiff’s attempt to pervert the Equal Protection Clause to cement injustice.”

According to the US Census, nearly 64 million Latinos—19.1% of the U.S. population—live in the United States. Government data show that Latinos comprise about 5% of the total Smithsonian workforce of over 6,300 employees.

“Latinos are racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse,” said Francisca Fajana, Director of Racial Justice Strategy, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Many are Indigenous, others are of African ancestry, and many are not. Many speak Spanish, and many others don’t. What we do know for a fact is that unequal educational opportunities for Latinos endure. The Latino Museum equips students with technical knowledge and skills to enter and succeed in the museum workforce.”

“Programs like these are essential to our efforts to expand access to educational and job opportunities in this country,” said Ryan Downer, Legal Director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “This lawsuit is an attempt to turn back the clock on progress and to turn the whole notion of equal protection on its head. It’s wrong on the law, wrong on the facts, and we’re confident that the Court will see that.”

The case is scheduled for oral argument at the preliminary injunction hearing on April 8. 


About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. 

About LatinoJustice
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable, and accessible justice, by empowering our community, and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For over 50 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout the country. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit