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Lujan v. U.S. Department of Education

The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship was established to support and promote U.S. students to conduct doctoral research in foreign countries using a foreign language. The Department of Education evaluates applicants on a 105-point scale, with language proficiency counting for 15 points. Starting in 1998, the Department began to use the language-proficiency criterion to disadvantage U.S. students whom the Department deemed to be “non-native-born” by assigning them 0 out of 15 points for language proficiency if they acquired the relevant foreign language through their national heritage.

Samar Ahmad and Edgar Ulloa Lujan are doctoral candidates at Georgetown University. Ms. Ahmad was born in Kuwait and grew up speaking Arabic. Mr. Lujan grew up in Juarez, Mexico, speaking Spanish since childhood. The Department of Education penalized the Plaintiffs’ applications for not satisfying the fellowship’s foreign-language-proficiency requirement, even though they are fluent in Arabic and Spanish, respectively.

Being ineligible for 15 out of 105 possible points presents an insurmountable barrier to obtaining the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship award, so the regulation directly undermined the program’s purpose of international openness and exchange by reducing the number of highly proficient foreign-language speakers in the United States. Nothing in the Fulbright-Hays Act authorizes the Department of Education to penalize U.S. students who speak a foreign language as part of their national heritage for the purpose of awarding financial scholarships. Students with immigrant heritage have a constitutional due process right to be free from the Department’s blatant and un-American discrimination.

Edgar Ulloa Lujan, Plaintiff

Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
John J. Vecchione
Senior Litigation Counsel

Order Clarifying Scope of Preliminary Injunction

April 3, 2023 | Read More

Motion to Clarify or Amend Injunctive Order

March 31, 2023 | Read More

Memorandum Opinion and Order

March 24, 2023 | Read More

Reply Brief in Support Of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction

February 7, 2023 | Read More

Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunction

January 3, 2023 | Read More


Federal Judge Grants Injunction to NCLA Client, Vacates Dept. of Ed.’s Discriminatory Fulbright Rule

March 27, 2023 | Read More

Dept. of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Application Includes Discriminatory “Native Language Penalty”

January 4, 2023 | Read More

U.S. Dept. of Education Alters Discriminatory Fulbright Application Process in Response to NCLA Suit

July 22, 2022 | Read More

NCLA Files Lawsuit Against Discriminatory Dept. of Education Rule for Fulbright-Hays Fellowships

May 10, 2022




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