The Hampton decision took an expansive view of noncitizens’ right to public employment and severely restricted the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies might refuse to employ noncitizens.
Mow Sun Wong was an alien immigrant residing lawfully and permanently in the United States. When he applied for a position with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, his application was rejected solely because of the agency’s policy of employing only American citizens. Many federal agencies maintained the same policy. In a class-action suit, Wong and four other resident aliens accused the agencies of unconstitutional discrimination. The Supreme Court had previously struck down such discrimination when practiced by state governments. Although the district court upheld the federal agencies’ policy, the court of appeals reversed and held that the policy of excluding all aliens without a special justification violated the principle of equal justice under the law, which had been established as a component of the
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals. Writing for the majority, Justice
O’Brien, David M. Constitutional Law and Politics. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. Schwartz, Bernard, ed. The Burger Court: Counter-Revolution or Confirmation? New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Supreme Court, U.S.