ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Laura Rótolo wrote the following guest blog.
The state’s highest court today held that the Commonwealth cannot discriminate against non-citizens when it comes to access to its state health insurance program, because that is a violation of the right to equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution. This is a victory not just for immigrants, but for the Massachusetts Constitution. Even in tough fiscal times, there is no basis for discriminating against a whole class of people.
Facing a financial crisis, the state had cut all non-citizens from the program. But last year, the Supreme Judicial Court held that this kind of discrimination—based on alienage—could only be constitutional if the state’s justification were subjected to the highest form of legal scrutiny.
So, in a second round of the case, the Commonwealth responded that it was merely following federal policy that immigrants should not be entitled to health benefits. The Court disagreed with that “hypothetical” justification, since it was clear that the actual justification was a fiscal one, and that the state was not obligated to follow a national policy.
The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with other groups, filed a friend of the court brief arguing that discrimination against non-citizens is unconstitutional and that the state’s justification did not pass the high hurdle set out by the court.
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