The Supreme Judicial Court today overturned a law that prohibits certain legal immigrants from obtaining subsidized insurance from the state's Commonwealth Care program.
The court said saving money was the main rationale behind a law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Patrick limiting the number of immigrants who could sign up for Commonwealth Care - and saving money is not a good enough reason under the state constitution for "invidious discrimination against aliens."
The appropriation arose directly out of an unforeseen revenue shortfall in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The proponents of § 31 (a ) repeatedly invoked fiscal concerns, while failing to articulate any interest whatsoever in national immigration policy.
The state law relied on definitions set by Congress for determining who is eligible for federal benefits, but the court said that legislature and the state Health Insurance Connector could not use those definitions without proving some societal benefit beyond simply cutting costs. To do so otherwise would violate the state constitution:
The discrimination against legal immigrants that its limiting language embodies violates their rights to equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution.
Last May, the court, in a narrowly decided decision, sent the case back down to a lower court with an admonition to consider issues of discrimination against legal aliens.