Mathews v. Diaz
Annotate this Case
426 U.S. 67 (1976)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Mathews v. Diaz, 426 U.S. 67 (1976)
Mathews v. Diaz
Argued January 13, 1975
Reargued January 12, 1976
Decided June 1, 1976
426 U.S. 67
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1395o(2) qualifies for enrollment in the Medicare supplemental medical insurance program residents of the United States who are 65 or older, but in subsection (b) denies eligibility to aliens unless they have been admitted for permanent residence and also have resided in the United States for at least five years. Appellee Diaz filed a class action suit in the District Court attacking the constitutionality of § 1395o(2)(b), and thereafter the District Court granted leave to add appellees Clara and Espinosa as plaintiffs and to file an amended complaint, which alleged that Clara had been disqualified for the same reasons as Diaz (lack of citizenship, nonadmission for permanent residence, and inability to meet the five-year residence requirement), but explained that Espinosa, though lawfully admitted for permanent residence, had not attempted to enroll because he could not meet the durational residence requirement. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that appellees had not exhausted their administrative remedies. Two days later, Espinosa applied for enrollment, and so advised the court. Though none of the appellees completely exhausted available avenues for administrative review, appellant acknowledged that the applications of Diaz and Clara raised no disputed factual issues, and that the interlocutory denials of their applications should be treated as final for purposes of this litigation, and conceded that Espinosa's application could not be allowed under the statute. The District Court overruled appellant's motion and held that the five-year residence requirement violated due process and that, since it could not be severed from the requirement of admission for permanent residence, the alien eligibility provisions of § 1395o(2)(B) were entirely unenforceable.
1. The District Court had jurisdiction over Espinosa's claim, which (unlike the other appellees' claims) squarely raises the question of the constitutionality of the five-year residence requirement. Pp. 426 U. S. 74-77.
(a) Espinosa's filing of an application, though not made until he had become a party, met the nonwaivable jurisdictional condition imposed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) that a claim for benefits under the Social Security Act shall have been presented to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the pleadings may be treated as properly supplemented by appellant's stipulation that Espinosa had filed an application. P. 426 U. S. 75.
(b) Appellant's stipulation that Espinosa's application would be denied for failure to meet the durational residence requirement was tantamount to a denial of the application, and constituted a waiver of the exhaustion requirements, and thus satisfied the statutory requirement of a hearing and final decision. Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U. S. 749. Cf. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U. S. 636 n. 6, 420 U. S. 641 n. 8. Pp. 426 U. S. 75-77.
2. The statutory classification in § 1395o(2)(B) does not deprive appellees of liberty or property in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 426 U. S. 77-87.
(a) Congress, which has broad power over immigration and naturalization and regularly makes rules regarding aliens that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens, has no constitutional duty to provide all aliens with the welfare benefits provided to citizens; the real question here is not whether discrimination between aliens and citizens is permissible, as it clearly is, but whether the statutory discrimination within the class of aliens is permissible. Pp. 426 U. S. 77-80.
(b) The political branches of government have considerable flexibility in responding to changing world conditions, and judicial review of decisions made by the Congress or the President in the area of immigration and naturalization is narrow. The party challenging the constitutionality of the particular line Congress has drawn has the burden of advancing principled reasoning that will at once invalidate that line and yet tolerate a different line separating some aliens from others. Pp. 426 U. S. 81-82.
(c) This case essentially involves only a claim that it would have been more reasonable for Congress to select somewhat different requirements of the same kind. The requirements chosen by Congress render eligible those aliens who may reasonably be assumed to have a greater affinity with the United States, and this Court is especially reluctant to question such a policy choice of degree. Pp. 426 U. S. 82-84.
361 F.Supp. 1, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.