The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral argument on whether individuals who initially entered the United States without permission and subsequently were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are eligible to adjust to lawful-permanent-resident status without leaving the United States. Sanchez v. Mayorkas, No. 20-315. If the individuals must leave the United States, they can become subject to three or 10 year bars to admission.
The brief for the government was filed by the Department of Justice in December 2020, near the end of the Trump administration. Despite the Biden administration’s stated pro-immigration stance, in this case, the government is defending the position that TPS is not a “lawful admission,” effectively limiting the ability of many individuals in TPS to adjust status in the United States.
During oral arguments, the Supreme Court Justices appeared skeptical that approval of TPS could be deemed a lawful admission under current statutory interpretation but, as law, Chief Justice John Roberts noted, the government seemed to be continually “underselling” its case. Indeed, in response to questioning from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the government said that it would just as soon have the Court decide that their interpretation of the statute was reasonable, but not unambiguously correct. The government also indicated it could change its interpretation in the future.
While President Joe Biden has voiced support for individuals in TPS, and has called for permanent status for these individuals, a decision favorable to the government will shut the door to green cards for thousands of TPS holders for now.
A decision is expected by June 2021. Jackson Lewis attorneys will continue to monitor the case and provide updates.