In a setback for immigrants in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on June 7 that people who illegally entered the country and have TPS status are unable to seek permanent residency.
The TPS program provides temporary legal status to specific immigrants unable to return to their home country due to war, violence, natural disaster and other extraordinary reasons. The life-saving immigration program protects thousands of people from deportation while allowing them to work in the U.S. as well.
Case focused on El Salvador couple
In all, there are about 400,000 immigrants in the U.S. who have TPS status. And roughly 85,000 of those within this group have been able to adjust their immigration status.
Immigrants with TPS designation hail from 12 countries. The vast majority – 94% – are from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti. Immigrants from the following nine countries also are protected: Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
Critics have called the high court’s decision a major obstacle for TPS status immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. It also may prove harmful to Dreamers – the people brought unlawfully into the country as children.
The recent case focuses on an El Salvador couple who illegally entered the U.S. in 1997 and 1998. The two applied for and received TPS status in 2001 after earthquakes occurred in their country of origin. In 2014, the couple sought to adjust their immigrant status by becoming permanent residents. They applied for green cards, however, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied their request.
In writing the unanimous court’s opinion, Justice Elena Kagan declared that federal law prevents people who have entered the country illegally and obtained TPS status from gaining permanent residency. The decision highlights the need for Congress to provide the necessary path for this group of people to secure permanent legal status.