The Supreme Court unanimously declared in Hernandez v. Texas that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to all racial and ethnic groups experiencing discrimination, thereby expanding civil rights rules to encompass Hispanics and all other non-whites. The State of Texas' lawyers did not refute the claim of discrimination. They had no defense against this new ruling.
Hernandez was convicted of murdering a white Texan named James Byrd Jr. in 1998. He was sentenced to death. On appeal, his lawyers argued that since blacks and Hispanics were denied rights at the time of the murder, there could be no equal protection violation now when he is sentenced to die.
Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected this argument. She said that while racial discrimination was common before 1965, it is now outlawed across the country. Therefore, any law discriminating on grounds such as race, color, religion, or national origin is considered unconstitutional under current rules.
These new protections for minorities have not been extended to all groups though. For example, women have not yet achieved true equality in the workplace, and therefore do not enjoy full protection from discrimination there.
However, women have won many victories since 1945. The court's decision in Hernandez helped secure these gains for Hispanic Americans as well.
In addition to expanding civil rights, Hernandez has also been cited in cases dealing with immigration and naturalization laws.
Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954), was a historic decision determined by the United States Supreme Court that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups in the United States have equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court held that it is unconstitutional for the state of Texas to exclude people from its juries on the basis of race.
In 1948, there were approximately 2 million Hispanics living in Mexico and Central America. This number increased to more than 6 million by 2008. The majority of these individuals migrated to the United States seeking economic opportunity and freedom from poverty, violence, and disease.
Texas has one of the largest Hispanic populations in the United States. In 2000, there were about 4 million Hispanics living in Texas, or about 15 percent of the total population. Today, there are about 6 million Hispanics living in Texas, or about 19 percent of the total population. Of this number, nearly half are Latino/a immigrants who account for most of the increase over the past two decades. The vast majority of these individuals are of Mexican origin.
Prior to the 1950s, little attention had been paid to excluding people based on their race when selecting jurors. However, following the end of World War II, when many blacks began to move to suburbs near white schools, communities began to use race as a factor in excluding people from jury service.
Hernandez v. Texas was significant because it declared that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to and protected Mexican-Americans and all other ethnic groups. This case also helped pave the way for other major civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1910, when Mexico won its independence from Spain, it became the first Spanish-speaking country in the world. Because most Mexicans were native speakers of Spanish, they were called "Spanish-Speaking Americans." In 1917, after the U.S. entered World War I, Congress passed the Foreign Language Fairness Act, which provided for English to be made the official language of government. Although many American citizens found this law unfair, President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law.
Because Mexicans were the largest group of immigrants coming from another country, many Americans began to refer to them as "Mexicans" or "Latin Americans." This term still is used today even though Hispanics come from many different countries across the globe.
During the 1930s, under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, many minorities gained civil rights. For example, in 1934, Roosevelt signed the Nationality Code, which granted American citizenship to any person who was born in the United States and whose parents were both U.S. citizens.