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Supreme Court decision a setback for some immigrants aspiring to green cards

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2021 | Immigration Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has been handing down a number of rulings in advance of its summer break. One unanimous ruling earlier this month was very disappointing news for some of the approximately 400,000 immigrants in the U.S. who have temporary protected status (TPS) and their loved ones. 

The court ruled that people who entered the U.S. illegally and were later given TPS because of dangerous conditions in their homeland such as war and natural disasters cannot apply for green cards that would allow them to be permanent residents. TPS allows them to work in the U.S. and remain here without fear of deportation. However, that could change if a future president determines that the program should be canceled.  

Those with TPS are from a dozen countries around the world, including El Salvador, Nepal, Haiti, Sudan, Myanmar and Yemen. The case that reached the Supreme Court involved a couple who came to the U.S. from El Salvador in the 1990s. 

The decision applies only to those who entered the U.S. illegally

In the decision, Justice Elena Kagan explained, “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” for a green card. She noted that the decision doesn’t affect people who entered the U.S. legally and later were given TPS because of conditions in their homeland.

Immigrant rights groups have sought to allow those with TPS to become permanent residents regardless of how they entered the country. They note that many of them have lived here for decades, made the U.S. their home and have had children who, because they were born here, are U.S. citizens.

Congress could pass legislation to allow all immigrants with TPS to seek green cards

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow this transition to permanent resident status. However, this legislation would have to make it through the Senate, where it’s likely to face a battle.

People who have immigrated to the U.S. know that their future can depend on who has the levers of power in this country in any given year. It’s essential for those with TPS to understand their rights as well as the restrictions placed on them. Legal guidance can help.