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
Richardson sued, claiming that
the denial was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection
Clause of the 14th
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
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