• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court used heightened scrutiny in holding that the denial of educational benefits to the children of undocumented aliens violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1975 the state of Texas revised its education laws, encouraging local school boards to deny enrollment of children whose parents had not been legally admitted into the United States. Opponents of the revised policy brought a class-action challenge on behalf of children of Mexican origin who lacked proper documentation. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Plyler v. Doe[Plyler v. Doe] held that Texas had failed to demonstrate that the exclusion was a rational means for furthering a “substantial state interest.” He argued that the denial of educational opportunity severely restricted the future potentialities of “a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status.” The Fourteenth Amendment’s phrase “within its jurisdiction,” according to Brennan, applied “to anyone, citizen or stranger, who is subject to the laws of the state.”Alien rights and naturalization;Plyler v. Doe[Plyler v. Doe]

Plyler’s use of intermediate scrutiny rather than strict scrutiny meant that future Supreme Courts would not necessarily strike down all restrictions on public benefits for illegal aliens. The issue became especially controversial when California voters in 1994 adopted Proposition 187, which was designed to eliminate nonemergency benefits for illegal aliens. Congress upheld the measure with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, while recognizing that the Plyler decision continued to be binding in regard to education.

Alien rights and naturalization

Citizenship

Education

Equal protection clause

Graham v. Richardson

Categories: History Content