Supreme Court Deals Blow to Illegals on Temporary Protected Status

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Illegals on Temporary Protected Status

( – On Monday, June 7, the US Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding one class of immigrants that could have widespread implications for those in the United States that are in the country illegally.

As background, Jose Santos Sanchez entered the country illegally from San Salvador. Years later, the US government granted Sanchez Temporary Protected Status (TPS) eligibility with the program’s full benefits. Once Sanchez was in the immigration program, he sued to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The justices agreed unanimously in Sanchez v. Mayorkas that because Sanchez entered the country illegally and then gained access to TPS, he doesn’t qualify under existing law to obtain a green card and permanent resident status. The high court’s decision may have a wide-ranging impact on other programs that do not have the protection without the weight of law from Congress.

Congress is currently working on a law that could change the protections for people in Sanchez’s situation. However, it’s stalled in the US Senate and isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon.

How Does TPS Work and Why Is This Case Important?

The Secretary of Homeland Security grants TPS to eligible persons whose countries experience continued armed conflicts, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. “Temporary” is the keyword. Currently, over 400,000 people from across the globe are in the United States on TPS.

Immigrants can live in the US under a TPS order for decades so long as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants the temporary protected status. The TPS designation allows immigrants in the program to work lawfully. However, if the government lifts the protected status due to changed conditions in the immigrant’s home country, individuals face deportation orders to return.

In Sanchez’s case, he was already in the US illegally when TPS was granted to people in San Salvador. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the presiding opinion, explaining that because the law defines “admission” into the US as “the lawful entry of the alien into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer,” Sanchez doesn’t qualify for a green card and legal resident status.

What Does the Ruling Mean for DACA Recipients?

While the ruling in Sanchez’s case is straightforward for those on TPS, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is much more complicated. Nonetheless, the ruling could impact those in the DACA program.

Unlike TPS, which Congress codified in law, DACA isn’t a law. It’s an executive order first signed by former President Barack Obama. However, due to the uniqueness of the situation, the Supreme Court ruled in early 2018 that former President Trump must keep the program in place until it makes its way through the court system.

Because those who received DACA were already illegal immigrants by definition at the time of Obama’s declaration, could the Sanchez v. Mayorkas ruling change the rules of the game? It’s certainly possible. The lower courts could interpret the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sanchez case as relevant to DACA.

Immigration is a top legal issue, and the Supreme Court will likely hear more cases in the coming terms. It appears the Justices are intent on using the court’s check and balance powers to force Congress to write Constitutionally mustered laws and force the executive branch to enforce them properly.

Only time will tell.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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