In a 9-0 decision issued Monday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that a law, barring illegal immigrants from seeking green cards, is constitutional and that those illegal immigrants who later earned a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are still ineligible to apply for permanent residency.
Justice Elena Kagan, widely recognized as one of the Court’s more liberal justices, wrote the unanimous opinion, upholding a rule that barred “unlawful entrants” who later received Temporary Protected Status from applying to remain in the United States. Temporary Protected Status technically “gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status,” Kagan noted, but TPS does not rubber-stamp an “unlawful entry.”
The TPS status “applies to people who come from countries ravaged by war or disaster. It protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. There are 400,000 people from 12 countries with TPS status,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The Court was called upon to decide whether a “couple from El Salvador who have been in the U.S. since the early 1990s” who were given protected status in 2001 but who originally “entered the country illegally” were actually “admitted” into the United States when they were given protected status, enabling them to apply for a green card.
Kagan was clear, in her opinion, that they were not. “The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them. So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant…eligible,” she wrote.
If Congress had wanted to confer “admission” into the United States along with Temporary Protected Status, Congress had an opportunity when they wrote the law, Kagan noted. She also suggested that Congress could approve “pending legislation” that refines the Temporary Protected Status to include “admission.”
“Congress, of course, could have gone further, by deeming TPS recipients to have not only nonimmigrant status but also a lawful admission,” Kagan said in her opinion, writing for the unanimous court. “Legislation pending in Congress would do just that.”
“The House of Representatives already has passed legislation that would make it possible for TPS recipients to become permanent residents,” Kagan noted, per the Star-Tribune. “The bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.”
Although the case likely does not impact most immigrants who entered the United States illegally, it does affect around 400,000 people from 12 countries — “Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen” — if they did not enter the U.S. by “lawful” means.
More importantly, “[t]he case pitted the Biden administration against immigrant groups that argued many people who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons have lived in the country for many years, given birth to American citizens, and put down roots in the U.S.,” per the Star-Tribune — groups that are already uneasy with President Joe Biden’s immigration agenda and who have been pressing the administration itself to be more liberal when it comes to allowing immigrants who entered the United States illegally to stay.
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