MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
New York, by statute, bars certain resident aliens from state financial assistance for higher education. N. Y. Educ. Law § 661 (3) (McKinney Supp. 1976). This litigation presents a constitutional challenge to that statute.
New York provides assistance, primarily in three forms, to students pursuing higher education. The first type is the Regents college scholarship. These are awarded to high school graduates on the basis of performance in a competitive examination. §§ 605 (1) and 670. Currently, in the usual case, a recipient is entitled to $250 annually for four years of study without regard to need. §§ 670 (2) and (3) (b).
There are several general restrictions on eligibility for participation in any of these programs. § 661. For example, there is a modest durational residency requirement. § 661 (5).
The statute obviously serves to bar from the assistance programs the participation of all aliens who do not satisfy its terms. Since many aliens, such as those here on student visas, may be precluded by federal law from establishing a permanent residence in this country, see, e. g., 8 U. S. C. § 1101 (a) (15) (F) (i); 22 CFR § 41.45 (1976), the bar of § 661 (3) is of practical significance only to resident aliens. The Court has observed of this affected group: "Resident aliens, like citizens, pay taxes, support the economy, serve in the Armed Forces, and contribute in myriad other ways to our society." In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717, 722 (1973).
Appellee Jean-Marie Mauclet is a citizen of France and has lived in New York since April 1969. He has been a permanent resident of the United States since November of that year. He is married to a United States citizen and has a child by that marriage. The child is also a United States citizen. App. 49. Mauclet by affidavit stated: "Although I am presently qualified to apply for citizenship and intend to reside
Appellee Alan Rabinovitch is a citizen of Canada. He was admitted to this country in 1964 at the age of nine as a permanent resident alien. He is unmarried and, since his admission, has lived in New York with his parents and a younger sister, all of whom are Canadian citizens. He registered with Selective Service on his 18th birthday. He graduated in 1973 from the New York public school system. Id., at 68, 71. As a result of a commendable performance on the competitive Regents Qualifying Examinations, Rabinovitch was informed that he was qualified for, and entitled to, a Regents college scholarship and tuition assistance. He later was advised, however, that the offer of the scholarship was withdrawn since he intended to retain his Canadian citizenship. Id., at 69, 25. Rabinovitch entered Brooklyn College without financial aid from the State. He states that he "does not intend to become a naturalized American, but . . . does intend to continue to reside in New York." Id., at 65.
Mauclet and Rabinovitch each brought suit in United States District Court (Mauclet in the Western District of New York and Rabinovitch in the Eastern District), alleging that the citizenship bar of § 661 (3) was unconstitutional. The same three-judge court was convened for each of the cases. Subsequently, it was ordered that the cases be heard together. App. 45. After cross motions for summary judgment, the District Court in a unanimous opinion ruled in appellees' favor. It held that § 661 (3) violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in that the citizenship
Appellants—the various individuals and corporate entities responsible for administering the State's educational assistance programs—challenge this determination.
The Court has ruled that classifications by a State that are based on alienage are "inherently suspect and subject to close judicial scrutiny." Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 372 (1971). See Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572, 601-602 (1976); In re Griffiths, 413 U. S., at 721; Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634, 642 (1973). In undertaking this scrutiny, "the governmental interest claimed to justify the discrimination is to be carefully examined in order to determine whether that interest is legitimate and substantial, and inquiry must be made whether the means adopted to achieve the goal are necessary and precisely drawn." Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U. S., at 605. See In re Griffiths, 413 U. S., at 721-722. Alienage classifications by a State that do not withstand this stringent examination cannot stand.
Appellants claim that § 661 (3) should not be subjected to such strict scrutiny because it does not impose a classification
Graham v. Richardson, supra, undermines appellants' position. In that case, the Court considered an Arizona statute that imposed a durational residency requirement for welfare benefits on aliens but not on citizens. Like the New York statute challenged here, the Arizona statute served to discriminate only within the class of aliens: Aliens who met the durational residency requirement were entitled to welfare
Appellants also assert that there are adequate justifications for § 661 (3). First, the section is said to offer an incentive for aliens to become naturalized. Second, the restriction on
The first purpose offered by the appellants, directed to what they describe as some "degree of national affinity," Brief for Appellants 18, however, is not a permissible one for a State. Control over immigration and naturalization is entrusted exclusively to the Federal Government, and a State has no power to interfere. U. S. Const., Art I, § 8, cl. 4. See Mathews v. Diaz, 426 U.S. 67, 84-85 (1976); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U. S., at 376-380; Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 334 U.S. 410, 419 (1948). But even if we accept, arguendo, the validity of the proffered justifications, we find them inadequate to support the ban.
Certainly, the justifications for § 661 (3) offered by appellants sweep far beyond the confines of the exception defined in Sugarman. If the encouragement of naturalization through these programs were seen as adequate, then every discrimination against aliens could be similarly justified. The exception would swallow the rule. Sugarman clearly does not tolerate that result. Nor does the claimed interest in educating the electorate provide a justification; although such education is a laudable objective, it hardly would be frustrated by including resident aliens, as well as citizens, in the State's assistance programs.
Since we hold that the challenged statute violates the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantee, we need not reach appellees' claim that it also intrudes upon Congress' comprehensive authority over immigration and naturalization. See Graham v. Richardson, 403 U. S., at 378; Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 42 (1915).
The judgments of the District Court are affirmed.
It is so ordered.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, dissenting.
I join MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST'S and MR. JUSTICE POWELL'S dissenting opinions, but I add this comment to point out yet other significant differences between this case and our prior cases involving alienage-based classifications.
With one exception, the prior cases upon which the Court purports to rely involved statutes which prohibited aliens from engaging in certain occupations or professions, thereby impairing their ability to earn a livelihood. See, e. g., Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572 (1976) (Puerto
In this case the State is not seeking to deprive aliens of the essential means of economic survival. Rather, pursuant to its broad power to regulate its education system, the State has chosen to provide some types of individuals—those it considers most likely to provide a long-range return to the local and national community—certain added benefits to facilitate participation in its system of higher education. The State is certainly not preventing aliens from obtaining an education, and indeed it is clear that appellees may attend New York colleges and universities on an equal footing with citizens. However, beyond that, the State has provided certain economic incentives to its own citizens to induce them to pursue higher studies, which in the long run will be a benefit to the
In my view, the Constitution of the United States allows States broad latitude in carrying out such programs. Where a fundamental personal interest is not at stake—and higher education is hardly that—the State must be free to exercise its largesse in any reasonable manner. New York, like most other States, does not have unlimited funds to provide its residents with higher education services; it is equally clear that the State has every interest in assuring that those to whom it gives special help in obtaining an education have or declare some attachment indicating their intent to remain within the State to practice their special skills. It has no interest in providing these benefits to transients from another country who are not willing to become citizens. The line drawn by the State is not a perfect one—and few lines can be—but it does provide a rational means to further the State's legitimate objectives. Resident individuals who are citizens, or who declare themselves committed to the idea of becoming American citizens, are more likely to remain in the State of New York after their graduation than are aliens whose ties to their country of origin are so strong that they decline to sever them in order to secure these valuable benefits.
I therefore conclude that the State of New York has not acted impermissibly in refusing to dispense its limited tax revenues to give assistance to aliens who by clear implication reject the opportunity to become citizens of the United States. Beyond the specific case, I am concerned that we not obliterate all the distinctions between citizens and aliens, and thus depreciate the historic values of citizenship.
If a State desires—and has the means—nothing in the United States Constitution prevents it from voluntarily giving
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE STEWART join, dissenting.
I am persuaded, for the reasons set forth in MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST'S dissent, that New York's scheme of financial assistance to higher education does not discriminate against a suspect class. The line New York has drawn in this case is not between aliens and citizens, but between aliens who prefer to retain foreign citizenship and all others.
Our prior cases dealing with discrimination against all aliens as a class, In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717 (1973); Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634 (1973), and against subclasses of aliens without regard to ability or willingness to acquire citizenship, Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971), do not justify the application of strict judicial scrutiny to the legislative scheme before us today.
As long as its program neither discriminates "on the basis of alienage," Graham v. Richardson, supra, at 372, nor conflicts with federal immigration and naturalization policy, it is my view that New York legitimately may reserve its scholarship assistance to citizens, and to those resident aliens who
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.
I am troubled by the somewhat mechanical application of the Court's equal protection jurisprudence to this case. I think one can accept the premise of Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971); In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717 (1973); and Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634 (1973), and therefore agree with the Court that classifications based on alienage are inherently suspect, but nonetheless feel that this case is wrongly decided. In those cases, the reason postulated for the elevation of alienage classifications to strict scrutiny was directly related to the express exclusion of aliens found in the State's classification. Here, however, we have a significantly different case. The State's classification trenches not at all upon the sole reason underlying the strict scrutiny afforded alienage classifications by this Court.
Graham v. Richardson is, of course, the starting point of analysis, as it was the first case to explicitly conclude that alienage classifications, like those based on race or nationality, would be subject to strict scrutiny when challenged under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Graham reasoned, 403 U. S., at 372:
It is clear, therefore, that the reason alienage classifications receive heightened judicial scrutiny is because aliens, qua aliens, are a "discrete and insular" minority. See also Sugarman v. Dougall, supra, at 642. Presumptively, such a minority group, like blacks or Orientals, is one identifiable by
The prior alienage cases from this Court, utilizing strict scrutiny to strike down state statutes, all dealt with statutes where the line drawn necessarily suffered that infirmity; in all of those cases, the line drawn necessarily left incoming resident aliens afflicted with the disability for some period of time. Nothing except the passage of time could remove the alien from the classification and the disability. The statutes, therefore, involved the precise infirmity which led this Court to accord aliens "suspect classification" treatment: The line drawn by the legislature was drawn on the basis of a status, albeit temporary, that the included members were powerless to change.
While the majority seems to view Graham v. Richardson as somehow different, ante, at 8-9, it is clear that the statute involved in that case suffered from the same weakness. By making aliens, but not citizens, await a durational residency requirement, aliens coming into the State were, because of their status, treated differently from citizens for a period of time, and during that period of time, the incoming aliens were
In all of these cases, then, the classification made by the State conformed to the reason underlying the strict scrutiny this Court applied. But it would seem to follow that if a state statute classifies in a way which necessarily avoids the underlying reason for the strict scrutiny, the statute should be viewed in a different light. This is such a case. Under this New York statute, a resident alien has, at all times, the power to remove himself from one classification and to place himself in the other, for, at all times, he may become entitled to benefits either by becoming a citizen or by declaring his intention to become a citizen as soon as possible.
Since the New York statute under challenge in this case does not create a discrete and insular minority by placing an inevitable disability based on status, the Court's heightened judicial scrutiny is unwarranted. The reason for the more rigorous constitutional test having ceased, the applicability of the test should likewise cease. Applying the rational-basis test, it is obvious that the statutory scheme in question should be sustained. The funds that New York wishes to spend on its higher education assistance programs are, of course, limited. New York's choice to distribute these limited funds to resident citizens and to resident aliens who intend to become citizens, while denying them to aliens who have no intention of becoming citizens, is a natural legislative judgment. By limiting the available pool of recipients to resident citizens and aliens who will become citizens, New York is able to give such recipients a larger payment from the same quantum of funds than would be the case were other aliens recipients as well. A State is entitled to decide, in distributing benefits, that resident citizens, whether or not they will remain residents of New York, are more likely to contribute to the future well-being of the State, either directly (by settling there) or indirectly (by living in some other State, but maintaining economic or social ties with New York or by improving the general well-being of the United States) than are aliens who are unwilling to renounce citizenship in a foreign country, and who may be thought more likely to return there. New
It is perhaps worthy of note that the Medicare program under consideration in Diaz granted a permanent resident alien eligibility when he had resided in the United States for five years. Five years' residence is also the generally required period under federal law before an alien may seek to be naturalized. 8 U. S. C. § 1427 (a). Yet, ironically, this is precisely the point at which, in New York, a resident must petition for naturalization or, irrespective of declared intent, lose his eligibility for higher education assistance.
"In a world of unmatched scientific progress and technological advance, as well as of unparalleled danger to human freedom, learning has never been more crucial to man's safety, progress and individual fulfillment. In the state and nation higher education no longer is a luxury; it is a necessity for strength, fulfillment and survival." 1961 N. Y. Laws, c. 389, § 1 (a).
And, in any event, the Court noted in Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 376 (1971), that classifications based on alienage "are inherently suspect and are therefore subject to strict scrutiny whether or not a fundamental right is impaired."
"This argument defies logic. Those aliens who apply, or agree to apply when eligible, for citizenship are relinquishing their alien status. Because some aliens agree under the statute's coercion to change their status does not alter the fact that the classification is based solely on alienage." 406 F. Supp., at 1235.
"That the statutory classifications challenged here discriminate among illegitimate children does not mean, of course, that they are not also properly described as discriminating between legitimate and illegitimate children."
"No person, except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, shall be naturalized unless such petitioner, (1) immediately preceding the date of filing his petition for naturalization has resided continuously, after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, within the United States for at least five years and during the five years immediately preceding the date of filing his petition has been physically present therein for periods totaling at least half of that time, and who has resided within the State in which the petitioner filed the petition for at least six months, (2) has resided continuously within the United States from the date of the petition up to the time of admission to citizenship, and (3) during all the period referred to in this subsection has been and still is a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States."
Section 1430 (a) establishes a three-year residency requirement for aliens whose spouse is a citizen of the United States. See also 8 U. S. C. § 1434. Sections 1430 (b), (c), and (d) establish special categories where no prior residence in this country is required. They constitute de minimis exceptions, and may be properly ignored in considering alienage classifications.
"[The plaintiff] is eligible for naturalization by reason of her marriage to a citizen of the United States and residence in the United States for more than three years, 8 U. S. C. § 1430 (a). She has not filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States, 8 U. S. C. § 1445 (f), and has no present intention of doing so."
The eligibility of plaintiff in that case, however, was not built into the classification scheme. The state-court rule prevented any alien from becoming an attorney, and of course reached those resident aliens who, having not satisfied the jurisdictional prerequisites to citizenship, could not change their disfavored status.