School case won for aliens' kids

The Supreme Court made some far-reaching decisions Tuesday.

In a historic constitutional test of the rights of illegal aliens, the court ruled 5 to 4 that children of such immigrants have a right to free public education.

The decision has far-reaching implications for illegal aliens beyond the specific issue of public education, and could boost their claims to other types of state and federal programs, including food stamps, medicare, and medicaid. In their decision, the justices declared for the first time that the Constitution's ''equal protection'' clause applies to illegal aliens. The clause has been interpreted to mean there can be no discrimination in individual rights to personal liberty, acquisition of property, and equal application of the law.

In another decision, the high court ruled unanimously that US subsidiaries of foreign corporations cannot discriminate against Americans in their hiring and promotion practices.

The decision, which touches on sensitive international trade issues, responded to a 1979 class-action suit filed against Sumitomo Shoji America Inc., a New York corporation and a subsidiary of Sumitomo Shoji Kabushiki Kaisha, a Japanese trading company. The suit alleged Sumitomo violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting employment discrimination by hiring only male Japanese to fill executive positions in the company.

Sumitomo contended it was exempt from requirements of the Civil Rights Act because of protection under the Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty between the United States and Japan.

In other decisions, the court ruled in a Mississippi school board case that state courts have the power to decide whether proposed changes in election procedures must comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And the court ruled that a person who gives ''highly appreciated'' securities to a family member must pay a capital gains tax on the value of state and federal gift taxes paid by the person who receives the gift.

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