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Ambach v. Norwick

They Want To Teach, But They Don't Want To Be Americans

New York's ban on aliens, Justice Powell continued, bears a rational relationship to the state's interest in educating future citizens. The law bars only those aliens who have refused to apply for United States citizenship. Such persons have deliberately chosen to focus their "primary duty and loyalty" on a foreign country and not on the United States.

In dissenting, Justice Blackmun argued that the New York law did not meet the majority's own test. New York, Blackmun stated, had not demonstrated a "rational relationship" between the law and the state's interest in education. For example, New York did not care whether teachers in private schools were citizens. The state even permitted aliens to sit on certain local school boards.

The New York restriction, Blackmun declared, "sweeps indiscriminately" and without precision. It irrationally implies that it is better "to employ a poor citizen teacher than an excellent resident alien teacher." Take, said Blackmun, the example of Spanish language teachers. Why deny this job to a resident alien "who may have lived for 20 years in the culture of Spain or Latin America?"

The majority had argued that--in addition to teaching facts--teachers molded a student's values. This emphasis on values also was inconsistent with earlier decisions, Blackmun concluded. For example, the Court allowed aliens to become attorneys, and lawyers are officers of every court in which they practice.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Ambach v. Norwick - Significance, Only Citizens Can Perform The Basic Tasks Of Government, They Want To Teach, But They Don't Want To Be Americans