Supreme Court curbs green-card bids from temporary residents

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A man exits the transit area after clearing immigration and customs on arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., September 24, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/Files

The Supreme Court ruled that people who entered the U.S. illegally can’t seek permanent residency just because they are now covered by a program that gives them temporary legal status.

The justices on Monday, June 7, 2021, unanimously ruled against Jose Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez, a married Salvadoran couple who received temporary protected status after El Salvador suffered a series of earthquakes in 2001. The ruling could affect thousands of people covered by the TPS program, which protects immigrants whose home countries are in crisis.

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said federal law allows green-card applications by temporary residents only if they were admitted into the country legally.

“Sanchez was not lawfully admitted, and his TPS does not alter that fact,” Kagan wrote. “He therefore cannot become a permanent resident of this country.”

The case divided immigration advocates from President Joe Biden’s administration, which defended what it said was a 30-year government practice of rejecting applications from illegal entrants. Biden’s team inherited the case from former President Donald Trump’s administration, which formalized the policy.

TPS currently covers hundreds of thousands of people from a dozen countries. More than 250,000 are from El Salvador, who under federal law must have had continuous presence in the U.S. since 2001. TPS shields recipients from deportation and lets them hold jobs legally.

In 2007 Sanchez got an employment visa through his employer, Viking Yacht Co., and seven years later he sought to use that visa to get what’s known as an “adjustment” to permanent status for himself and his wife. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services rejected the application in 2015.

 

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