Unanimous: Court rules against immigrants with temporary status

Cheryl Sanders
June 8, 2021

On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected an illegal immigrant's attempt to twist immigration law and create a loophole that would allow thousands of illegal immigrants to become lawful permanent residents.

The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided Sanchez v. Mayorkas on Monday, ruling that a married couple who fled earthquakes in El Salvador can not receive green cards even though they have been lawfully in the US for 20 years and received "Temporary Protected Status" (TPS). There are 400,000 TPS recipients from 12 countries with TPS.

Justice Elena Kagan authored the court's opinion, concluding that while the "TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status", it nevertheless "does not admit them". But she added that people who entered without authorisation do not become eligible for green cards thanks to temporary protected status.

In Sanchez v. Mayorkas, Kagan noted that USA immigration law, "applied according to its plain terms, prevents Sanchez from becoming an LPR".

Kagan held that two parts of the immigration laws operate on separate tracks - one track allows some immigrants who entered the country legally to apply for green cards, and the other track allows immigrants, whether they entered legally or not, to pursue TPS. "We hold that it does not".

The case arose after immigration officials denied a green card application from Jose Santos Sanchez, a citizen of El Salvador.

"Lawful status and admission, as the court below recognised", she wrote, "are distinct concepts in immigration law: Establishing one does not necessarily establish the other". Sanchez entered the country illegally in 1997.

The couple received Temporary Protected Status following a series of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.

Sanchez challenged the decision and a U.S. District Court agreed with him, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed, holding that "a grant of TPS does not constitute an "admission" into the United States".

Though the two tracks can sometimes merge, she noted, individuals who enter the country illegally do not become eligible for green cards due to their temporary status.

On the other side were immigrant groups that argued many people who came to the US for humanitarian reasons have lived in the country for many years, given birth to American citizens and put down roots in the U.S.

Temporary protected status has been extended to about 320,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. Sanchez and Gonzalez appealed to SCOTUS, which ruled against them on the basis that 8 U.S.C.

Conservative justice Clarence Thomas initially suggested the Supreme Court would be reluctant to let immigrants with protected status apply for permanent residency when the case was first presented to the court on April 19.

Lawyers for Sanchez argued that was a constrained reading of the law. For instances, she wrote, a foreign national who entered the country legally on a tourist visa, but stayed on for several months after the visa's expiration would meet the requirement that he entered the country lawfully.

'They clearly were not admitted at the borders, so is that a fiction, is it metaphysical, what is it?

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