Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a program that allows people fleeing war or disaster to live and work in the U.S. legally. Currently, there are around 400,000 people in the TPS program, which applies to El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
TPS status can last for decades, as the affected countries may not be able to safely repatriate their citizens for a long time. Many people on TPS have been living and working in the U.S. for decades and have given birth to U.S. citizen children. They are typically fully integrated into our society.
Now, many people who have lived legally in the U.S. due to the TPS program would like to make their home in the U.S. permanently. They are seeking green cards – lawful permanent residency in the U.S. However, some TPS recipients entered the country without authorization and were given the humanitarian protection later.
The U.S. Supreme Court just heard arguments from a couple from El Salvador who came to the U.S. without authorization in the late 1990s. In 2001, the U.S. granted TPS to migrants from El Salvador due to a series of catastrophic earthquakes in that country.
In theory, there are two paths for this couple to obtain a green card. First, they can return to El Salvador and petition from there. However, the U.S. could bar them from reentering the United States after having immigrated initially without authorization. That bar could last 10 years.
The second option, adjustment of status, would allow them to seek green cards without leaving the U.S. That is the option the El Salvador couple is seeking, but this path is only open to those who were “admitted” to the U.S.
The U.S. government argues that unauthorized immigrants were never “admitted” and cannot use the adjustment of status process to get a green card. The El Salvador couple’s attorneys have argued that Congress intended to allow TPS recipients to use adjustment of status to get a green card.
Each side has some good points, but the justices largely seemed reluctant to allow the couple and others to use the adjustment of status method.
The law on this may be changing
President Biden has said that he supports changing the law to give those on TPS and others who have set down roots in the U.S. a path to citizenship, but such a law has yet to pass the Senate.
If you would like to seek a green card, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people live and work legally in the U.S.