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Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling Means Congress and President Must Prioritize TPS Justice

After the high court’s misguided decision in Sanchez v. Mayorkas, Congress and President Biden must work harder to ensure a path to permanent residency for TPS immigrants.

By Josh Leach on June 9, 2021

On Monday, June 7, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in the case Sanchez v. Mayorkas. Despite strong arguments by petitioners, the court found that a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) does not count as an “admission” for purposes of adjusting status to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) under U.S. immigration law.

This decision does not affect the work authorization or current legal status of any TPS holder. It also does not affect the ability of all TPS holders to adjust status. However, it does mean that many TPS holders who originally entered the country without inspection, and who otherwise qualify for a green card under U.S. law, whether on family- or employment-based grounds, are not eligible to adjust their status from inside the United States. Instead, these TPS holders would have to leave the country and apply for LPR status from outside the U.S. Such a requirement may carry harmful immigration penalties, and it would in many cases force TPS holders to put themselves at risk of the very conditions that justified the grant of TPS in the first place.

The Supreme Court’s misguided ruling is deeply disappointing, as is the position the government took in court. The Biden administration could easily have taken a different stance on the legal issues in this case, arguing for the ability of all TPS holders to apply for green cards inside the United States if they otherwise qualify under the usual visa pathways. Instead, they chose to put people needlessly at risk of having to travel outside the country, and to create uncertainty and disruption in the lives of thousands of TPS holders who deserve a path to permanent residency.

Now that the Supreme Court has closed down the pathway for otherwise-qualifying TPS holders to adjust status, the importance and urgency of congressional action is greater than ever. Congress and President Biden must work together to advance a critically-needed legislative solution for TPS holders and other immigrants. The House has already approved the Dream and Promise Act, which would put TPS holders on the path to permanent residency. President Biden’s proposed U.S. Citizenship Act would also achieve this goal. Both bills would also remediate the bar on adjusting status that the Sanchez v. Mayorkas ruling imposes.

In solidarity with our longstanding partners the National TPS Alliance, UUSC calls on the Senate to take up the House-approved Dream and Promise Act, and on both chambers to enact the U.S. Citizenship Act, while stripping these bills of any harmful criminal exclusions or surveillance measures. Due to the well-documented racial disparities and structural injustice in the criminal legal system, any criminal exclusions incorporated into these laws are racially discriminatory and anti-Black.

We also urge President Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to make full use of the TPS program to protect immigrants at risk of deportation. Specifically, we call on the administration to issue new TPS designations for Central American countries affected by devastating back-to-back hurricanes in November 2020, as well as for the Bahamas, Cameroon, Mauritania, and other countries grappling with humanitarian catastrophes.

Our partners at the National TPS Alliance are calling for a national day of action on June 10 to press for permanent residency now for all TPS holders. As they have pointed out, this issue is made all the more urgent by the Supreme Court’s decision to close down one of the precious few available pathways to a green card currently open to many TPS holders. Learn more about the event and find an action happening near you on the TPS Alliance’s Facebook page.

UUSC applauds the Biden administration’s recent decision to redesignate Haiti for TPS. We urge them to follow this decision by swiftly publishing the official Federal Register Notice (FRN) that will enable Haitian immigrants to apply under the redesignation. Any delays in publishing the FRN expose potentially-qualifying Haitian TPS holders to the risk of deportation or of being scammed by bad-faith actors during the gap between the announcement of the redesignation and the FRN publication. In order to ensure Haitian community members know their rights and have access to up-to-date information, UUSC published a fact-sheet pointing to helpful resources.

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About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Image Credit: National TPS Alliance

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