The Richardson decision was the first in a series of rulings that struck down discriminatory state laws denying public benefits to noncitizens.
Carmen Richardson, a legally admitted resident alien, had been living in Arizona since 1956. When she became totally disabled in 1964, she applied for welfare benefits that were administered by the state with federal subsidy. Her application was denied because of an Arizona statute requiring a person either to be a citizen or to have resided in the country for fifteen years. After the district court decided in Richardson’s favor, the state’s commissioner of public welfare, John Graham, appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Until that time, the Court had usually upheld laws that discriminated against noncitizens.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Arizona law was unconstitutional and that Richardson was entitled to benefits. Writing the opinion for the Court, Justice
Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey. New York: Henry Holt, 2005. O’Brien, David M. Constitutional Law and Politics. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008.
Bernal v. Fainter
Foley v. Connelie
Plyler v. Doe
Supreme Court, U.S.