The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a unanimous decision that illegal immigrants living in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program are ineligible to apply to become permanent residents.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that federal immigration law prohibits TPS recipients from seeking green cards if they entered the country illegally. The justices noted that federal law requires immigrants to have been “inspected and admitted or paroled” in the U.S. prior to seeking permanent residency.
Around 400,000 people from 12 countries living in the U.S. are TPS recipients. The program applies to immigrants from countries affected by war or other humanitarian disasters, and protects them from deportation and allows them to legally work in the country, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The first and ONLY Supreme Court opinion today is in Sanchez v. Mayorkas, a unanimous decision by Kagan holding that a TPS recipient who entered the U.S. unlawfully is not eligible under §1255 for LPR status merely because he has TPS. https://t.co/6W9WE6vLpx pic.twitter.com/fkHNitwyga
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) June 7, 2021
At issue in the case were Jose Sanchez and Sonia Gonzales, a couple from New Jersey who came to the U.S. illegally from El Salvador in 1997. The couple applied for and received TPS following a series of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001, and later sought to “adjust” their status to become permanent residents in 2014, according to CNN.
Sanchez argued that he was “inspected and admitted” into the U.S. under federal immigration law when he received protected status, but both the Trump and Biden administrations disagreed.
After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied his application for permanent residency, Sanchez challenged the denial in a federal district court. The court ruled in favor of the couple, though the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision. (RELATED: SCOTUS Offers Reprieve To Illegal Immigrants Facing Deportation In Border Case)
The Supreme Court took up the case in January and oral arguments began in April. In the court’s decision Monday, the justices determined that Sanchez “was not lawfully admitted, and his TPS does not alter that fact.”
The court noted there was “no dispute” that Sanchez entered the U.S. “unlawfully, without inspection” and that a “straightforward” application of immigration law supported the Trump and Biden administrations’ decision to prevent him from applying for a green card.
“The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them,” Kagan wrote. “So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant … eligible” to apply to become a permanent resident.