How Will the Supreme Court Decision in Sanchez v. Mayorkas Affect TPS-Holders?
On June 7, 2021, the Supreme Court held that recipients of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) do not qualify for a green card or permanent residency if they entered the country unlawfully.
What is TPS?
TPS is available for people who had to flee their home countries due to armed conflict, natural disasters, or other life-threatening situations. The United States has authorized this status for individuals from 12 countries, including El Salvador, Venezuela, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, and Haiti.
Having TPS allows someone to live and work in the United States for a limited period of time and protects them from deportation. There are currently 400,000 TPS-holders in the United States, most of whom are from El Salvador. They are permitted to remain in the United States as long as the government determines that it is unsafe for them to return to their home country. Some, such as the individuals in the Supreme Court case, have been living and working in the United States for over 20 years, and many now have children who are U.S. citizens.
What Does This Ruling Mean?
Many people who require TPS are fleeing imminent danger in their home country and do not have time to pursue proper immigration channels, such as applying for a visa. Getting a visa can be a highly competitive and expensive process, taking months or years depending on where you live. Additionally, asking for asylum or protection at the border feels too risky for many, as it can result in being sent back to the dangerous situation they just fled. This leads many people to arrive in the United States without a visa or other form of legal entry. These individuals are still permitted to apply for and receive TPS once they arrive. However, this ruling makes TPS a dead end. The Court held that because these individuals arrived in the United States illegally, they could not stay here permanently and must return to their home countries when their TPS expires. In other words, if someone entered the country without documentation or without being inspected and admitted by an immigration agent, even if they have TPS, they cannot get a green card.
What is Legal Entry?
The Court held that in order to legally enter the country an individual must have been “inspected and admitted or paroled into” the United States. The El Salvadorian couple involved in the case argued that they met this inspection and admittance requirement when they applied for TPS status. However, the court disagreed, saying that receiving TPS status did not alter the fact that they initially entered the country unlawfully.