The Supreme Court ruled Monday in an unanimous decision that thousands of people living in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons are ineligible to apply to become permanent residents. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that federal immigration law prohibits people who entered the country illegally and now have Temporary Protected Status from seeking “green cards” to remain in the country permanently. The designation 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.
Kagan wrote: “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. The House of Representatives already has passed legislation that would make it possible for TPS recipients to become permanent residents, Kagan noted. Monday’s decision does not affect immigrants with TPS who initially entered the U.S. legally and then overstayed their visa, Kagan noted. Because those people were legally admitted to the country and later were given humanitarian protections, they can seek to become permanent residents.
In 2001, the U.S. gave Salvadoran migrants legal protection to remain in the U.S. after a series of earthquakes in their home country. People from 11 other countries are similarly protected. They are: Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.