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Graham v. Richardson

    Brief Fact Summary. Arizona required State residents to be a United States citizen or a resident of the United States for at least fifteen years to be eligible for welfare benefits.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Restrictions based on alienage are generally subject to strict scrutiny.

    Facts. The Respondent, Richardson (Respondent), was denied welfare benefits solely on the basis of being a resident alien who has resided for less than fifteen years in the country. The Respondent alleges that the residency requirement of the Arizona welfare statutes is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Issue. May Arizona distinguish between resident aliens and citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?

    Held. No. Court of Appeals ruling affirmed.
    Justice Harry Blackmun (J. Blackmun) also notes that a “person” for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment encompasses both resident aliens and citizens, thereby affording legal aliens equal protection of the laws.
    J. Blackmun, writing for the Supreme Court of the Untied States (Supreme Court), declares that restrictions based on alienage are akin to classifications based on race or nationality, in that they are subject to strict scrutiny.
    The Supreme Court concludes that the State’s “desire to preserve limited welfare benefits for its own citizens” is not a compelling government interest for purposes of strict scrutiny, and thus the statute is unconstitutional.

    Discussion. The important holding of Richardson is that aliens are entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protection and that in general, statutes based on alienage are subject to strict scrutiny.


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