Brief Fact Summary. Aliens challenge state statutes that restrict and prevent their access to welfare benefits offered to citizens.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A state cannot restrict or prevent aliens from receiving benefits offered to state citizens.
Issue. Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) prevents a State from requiring a residency requirement to qualify for welfare benefits and from granting welfare benefits only to citizens of the state and not to aliens.
Held. Yes. A state’s intention to maintain welfare benefits for its own citizens is not a sufficient justification for restricting and preventing aliens access welfare benefits offered to the state’s citizens. Placing restrictions on aliens has historically been a power under the federal government, not state governments. Therefore, “making noncitizens ineligible for public assistance, and . . . restricting benefits to citizens and longtime resident aliens, violates the Equal Protection Clause.” The judgment is affirmed.
Discussion. “State law that restricts the eligibility of aliens for welfare benefits merely because of their alienage conflict with [ ] overriding national policies in an area constitutionally entrusted to the Federal Government . . . .”