Ambach v. Norwick
441 U.S. 68 (1979)

  • Norwick and Daschinger were both non-US citizens, but were permanent residents.
  • They applied to be teachers in New York, but their applications were denied.
    • New York law at the time (New York Education Law §3001(3)) required that all teachers be either US citizens or be “manifesting an intention to apply for citizenship.”
  • Norwick and Daschinger sued, claiming that the citizenship requirement was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Specifically, the Equal Protection Clause says that “no person shall be denied equal protection under the laws…,” it does not say “citizen.”
  • The US Supreme Court found for New York and found the citizenship requirement to be constitutionally permissible.
    • The US Supreme Court found that while strict scrutiny is the general level of judicial review for cases in which non-citizens are making claims based on equal protection (aka alienage classifications), there is an exception for cases related to self-government and the democratic process.
      • In those cases, the much lower rational basis review is to be used.
      • Basically, a State may deny aliens the right to vote, hold political office, or serve on juries, as long as they can show a rational basis.
    • The Court found that being a teacher “goes to the heart of representative government,”(since they teach US history, political, and social studies subjects) and so there was a rational basis for the classification.
  • In a dissent it was argued that the fear of non-citizens was irrational xenophobia, and that in many cases a person who had lived abroad would make a better teacher than a US citizen who had never traveled.