Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong
Annotate this Case
426 U.S. 88 (1976)
U.S. Supreme Court
Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong, 426 U.S. 88 (1976)
Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong
Argued January 13, 1975
Reargued January 12, 1976
Decided June 1, 1976
426 U.S. 88
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) regulation barring noncitizens, including lawfully admitted resident aliens, from employment in the federal competitive civil service held unconstitutional as depriving such resident aliens of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 426 U. S. 99-117.
(a) While overriding national interests may justify a citizenship requirement in the federal service even though an identical requirement may not be enforced by a State, the federal power over aliens is not so plenary that any agent of the Federal Government may arbitrarily subject all resident aliens to different substantive rules from those applied to citizens. When the Federal Government asserts an overriding national interest to justify a discriminatory rule that would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if adopted by a State, due process requires that there be a legitimate basis for presuming that the rule was actually intended to serve that interest. Pp. 426 U. S. 99-105.
(b) While the CSC's policy of conditioning eligibility for employment in the federal civil service on citizenship has been considered by Congress in certain Appropriation Acts imposing various limitations on the classes of employees who may receive compensation from the Federal Government and by various Presidents in Executive Orders relating to the CSC's authority to establish standards for federal employment, those Appropriation Acts and Executive Orders cannot fairly be construed to evidence either approval or disapproval of the CSC regulation in question. Pp. 426 U. S. 105-114.
(c) Assuming without deciding that an explicit determination by Congress or the President to exclude all noncitizens from the federal service would be adequately supported by the national interests of (1) providing the President with an expendable token for treaty negotiation purposes, (2) offering aliens an incentive to
become naturalized, and (3) having, for the sake of administrative convenience, one simple rule excluding all noncitizens from employment when citizenship is clearly an appropriate and legitimate requirement for some important and sensitive positions, such interests cannot provide an acceptable rationalization for such a determination by the CSC. The first two are not matters that properly concern the CSC. The third interest is likewise unacceptable where it does not appear that the CSC fully evaluated the relative desirability of a simple exclusionary rule, on the one hand, or the value to the service of enlarging the pool of eligible employees, on the other, and where it cannot be reasonably inferred that the administrative burden of establishing the job classifications for which citizenship is an appropriate requirement would be particularly onerous. More significantly, in view of the quality of the interest at stake, any fair balancing of the public interest in avoiding the wholesale deprivation of employment opportunities caused by the CSC's indiscriminate policy, as opposed to what may be nothing more than a hypothetical justification, requires rejection of administrative convenience as justification for the regulation. Pp. 426 U. S. 114-116.
(d) Since alien residents are admitted as a result of decisions made by Congress and the President, implemented by the Immigration and Naturalization Service acting under the Attorney General, due process requires that the decision to deprive such residents of an important liberty be made either at a comparable level of government or, if it is to be permitted to be made by the CSC, that it be justified by reasons that are the proper concern of that agency. P. 426 U. S. 116.
500 F.2d 1031, affirmed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring statement, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 426 U. S. 117. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 426 U. S. 117.
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