Texas revised their State
education laws. Part of the revisions denied funding to schools that
admitted illegal aliens, and would permit schools to deny admission to
students who could not show they were legal residents.
Various immigrant groups sued,
claiming that the legal resident 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 "legal resident."
The US Supreme Court found the
Texas Statute to be unconstitutional.
In a partial reversal of
previous opinions, the US Supreme Court found that the proper standard of
judicial review for alienage classifications was intermediate scrutiny.
In Graham v. Richardson (403 U.S. 365 (1971)), the Court had
previously used strict scrutiny as the standard for
The Court found that the
Statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
because denial on the basis of alienage (aka alienage classifications) did not further a substantial state
interest (aka intermediate
The only State interest
that the law would further is to save a little money on education costs.
The Court found that a law
was "directed against children, and imposed its discriminatory
burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can
have little control," namely, the fact of their having been brought
illegally into the United States by their parents.
While you could argue that
the parents don't deserve special treatment because they were doing
something illegal, the children were totally innocent and their illegal
immigrant status was not voluntary.
The Court noted that denying
the children an education would likely contribute to "the creation
and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries,
surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and
In a dissent it was argued
that prior Court decisions held that illegal immigrants are not a suspect
class, and that education is not a fundamental
right, so the proper standard of
judicial review should be rational basis review.
The issue is that, based on
other cases, saving some money on education is enough to meet rational
basis, so if the Court wanted to
overturn this law (and even the dissent agreed that it was a horrible
law), then the Court had to find a higher level of review than rational