Graham v. Richardson
403 U.S. 365 (1971)

  • Richardson was a Mexican citizen but a permanent legal resident of the US. She became disabled and applied for welfare benefits.
  • Under Arizona State law (Arizona Rev. Stat. Ann. §46233) said that non-US citizens could not receive welfare or disability benefits unless they had resided in the US for at least 15 years (which Richardson hadn’t).
  • Richardson sued, claiming that the denial 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 the Arizona Statute to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the proper level of judicial scrutiny for laws that discriminate against non-citizens (aka alienage classifications) was strict scrutiny.
      • In order to pass a strict scrutiny review, a law must:
        • Be justified by a compelling governmental interest.
        • Be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.
        • Use least restrictive means to achieve that interest.
    • In this case, the Court found that Arizona’s claim that the law was designed to reduce welfare costs to the State was not a compelling enough justification.
    • In addition, the Court found that Arizona was preempted from regulating their welfare system this way because Congress had exclusive Federal power over how benefits should be distributed.