Mathews v. Diaz

Decision Date13 January 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73-1046,73-1046
Citation48 L.Ed.2d 478,96 S.Ct. 1883,426 U.S. 67
PartiesF. David MATHEWS, Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Appellant, v. Santiago DIAZ et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

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. Held :

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. 74-77.

(a) Epsinosa'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. 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, 95 S.Ct. 2457, 45 L.Ed.2d 522. Cf. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636, 640 n. 6, 641 n. 8, 95 S.Ct. 1225, 1229, 1230-1231, 43 L.Ed.2d 514, 520, 520-521. Pp. 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. 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. 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. 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. 82-84.

D.C., 361 F.Supp. 1, reversed.

Harriet S. Shapiro, Washington, D. C., for appellant.

Bruce S. Rogow, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for appellees.

Mr. Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by the Secretary's appeal is whether Congress may condition an alien's eligibility for participation in a federal medical insurance program on continuous residence in the United States for a five-year period and admission for permanent residence. The District Court held that the first condition was unconstitutional and that it could not be severed from the second. Since we conclude that both conditions are constitutional, we reverse.

Each of the appellees is a resident alien who was lawfully admitted to the United States less than five years ago. Appellees Diaz and Clara are Cuban refugees who remain in this country at the discretion of the Attorney General; appellee Espinosa has been admitted for per- manent residence. All three are over 65 years old and have been denied enrollment in the Medicare Part B supplemental medical insurance program established by § 1831 et seq. of the Social Security Act of 1935, 49 Stat. 620, as added, 79 Stat. 301, and as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1395j et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. IV).1 They brought this action to challenge the statutory basis for that denial. Specifically, they attack 42 U.S.C. § 1395o (2) (1970 ed., Supp. IV), which grants eligibility to resident citizens who are 65 or older but denies eligibility to comparable aliens unless they have been admitted for permanent residence and also have resided in the United States for at least five years.2 Appellees Diaz and Clara meet neither requirement; appellee Espinosa meets only the first.

On August 18, 1972, Diaz filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that his application for enrollment had been denied on the ground that he was not a citizen and had neither been admitted for permanent residence nor resided in the United States for the immediately preceding five years. He further alleged that numerous other persons had been denied enrollment in the Medicare Part B program for the same reasons. He sought relief on behalf of a class of persons who have been or will be denied enrollment in the Medicare insurance program for failure to meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1395o (2) (1970 ed., Supp. IV). Since the complaint prayed for a declaration that § 1395o (2) was unconstitutional and for an injunction requiring the Secretary to approve all applicants who had been denied eligibility solely for failure to comply with its requirements, a three-judge court was constituted.

On September 28, 1972, the District Court granted leave to add Clara and Espinosa as plaintiffs and to file an amended complaint. That pleading alleged that Clara had been denied enrollment for the same reasons as Diaz, but explained that Espinosa, although a permanent resident since 1971, had not attempted to enroll because he could not meet the durational residence requirement, and therefore any attempt would have been futile. The amended complaint sought relief on behalf of a subclass represented by Espinosa that is, aliens admitted for permanent residence who have been or will be denied enrollment for failure to meet the five-year continuous residence requirement as well as relief on behalf of the class represented by Diaz and Clara.3

On October 24, 1972, the Secretary moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground, among others, that the District Court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter because none of the plaintiffs had exhausted his administrative remedies under the Social Security Act. Two days later, on October 26, 1972, Espinosa filed his application for enrollment with the Secretary. He promptly brought this fact to the attention of the District Court, without formally supplementing the pleadings.

None of the appellees completely exhausted available avenues for administrative review. Nevertheless, the Secretary acknowledged that the applications of Diaz and Clara raised no disputed issues of fact and therefore e interlocutory denials of their applications should be treated as final for the purpose of this litigation. This satisfied the jurisdictional requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 763-767, 95 S.Ct. 2457, 2465-2467, 45 L.Ed.2d 522, 537-539; Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636, 641 n. 8, 95 S.Ct. 1225, 1230, 43 L.Ed.2d 514, 520-521. The Secretary did not make an equally unambiguous concession with respect to Espinosa, but in colloquy with the court he acknowledged that Espinosa had filed an application which could not be allowed under the statute.4 The District Court overruled the Secretary's motion to dismiss and decided the merits on cross-motions for summary judgment.

The District Court held that the five-year residence requirement violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment 5 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. Diaz v. Weinberger, 361 F.Supp. 1 (1973). The...

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