The outcome in a case involving a couple from El Salvador who have been in the US since the 1990s turned on whether people who entered the country illegally and were given humanitarian protections were ever "admitted" into the United States under immigration law.
Currently, besides El Salvador, migrants with TPSstatus from 11 other countries are protected from deportation.
"The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them", Kagan wrote.
Then, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the decision, finding that because Sanchez first entered the U.S. illegally, he was not eligible for a green card under federal immigration law. In 2001, Sanchez was provided TPS, a nonimmigrant status that allows him to remain in the US for as long as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extends TPS for El Salvador.
"N$3 othing in the conferral of TPS changes that result", Kagan wrote. The designation is also given to countries that can not handle the return of nationals adequately.
"Lawful status and admission, as the court below recognized are distinct concepts in immigration law: Establishing one does not necessarily establish the other", she wrote.
"Petitioner Jose Santos Sanchez entered this country unlawfully from El Salvador". After a series of earthquakes in 2001, the United States designated El Salvador as covered under the Temporary Protected Status program.
The ruling, which has potential to affect hundreds of thousands of immigrants with TPS, was not unexpected, but is being hailed as evidence of the urgency to create a "pathway to citizenship" for TPS holders and other immigrants.
The ruling in Sanchez v. Mayorkas, authored by Justice Elena Kagan, could affect tens of thousands of immigrants now living in the USA under Temporary Protected Status, the Associated Press reported. But his administration, like the Trump administration, argued that current immigration law doesn't permit people who entered the country illegally to apply for permanent residency.
Besides El Salvador, 11 other countries now have such designations: Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the Supreme Court on Monday, agreed, saying that two parts of the immigration laws operate on separate tracks.
The case decided by the Supreme Court began when Jose Sanchez and his wife, Sonia Gonzalez, sought green cards.
The case is Sanchez v. Mayorkas, No. 20-315 in the Supreme Court of the United States.
"'Recipients of TPS, ' the agency reasoned, "must still meet the threshold requirement" of a lawful entry", the justice continued.
The government said that while Congress had made some individuals eligible to adjust their status if they met certain criteria and had a sponsor, it was not available to those who had not made a lawful entry.