In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments said on Tuesday that the guidelines “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution”, reports The New York Times.
“The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and, in some instances, stays on the books for decades,” said Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in a separate statement: “The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are constitutional, and the court’s written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue.
“Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the guidelines, published by former President Barack Obama’s administration between 2009 and 2016, were “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper”, reports Efe news.
He said his decision was based on an executive order that Trump signed in February 2017 and which required the creation of committees within government agencies to identify, revoke or modify regulations they considered unnecessary.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of affirmative action in 2016, but it has been a controversial issue in the United States for decades.
The Trump administration’s move comes a few months before a court is expected to rule in October on a highly anticipated case which is pitting the Harvard University against Asian-American students.
The students have accused Harvard of systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races.
Democrats and civil rights organisations denounced the administration’s decisions.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said the “rollback of vital affirmative action guidance offends our nation’s values” and called it “yet another clear Trump administration attack on communities of colour”.