Sanchez v. Mayorkas: Noncitizen with temporary protected status cannot become permanent resident if entered country illegally
The conferral of Temporary Protected Status on a noncitizen does not enable them to obtain lawful permanent resident status if they entered the country unlawfully, the U.S. Supreme Court held June 7 in Sanchez v. Mayorkas.
Jose Santos Sanchez entered the U.S. unlawfully from El Salvador. The U.S. granted him Temporary Protected Status (TPS) because of unsafe conditions in El Salvador. That status allows Sanchez to stay and work in the U.S. so long as the unsafe conditions continue.
Sanchez then applied for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
Section 1255 of the immigration law allows noncitizen to obtain an adjustment of status upon “admission” to the U.S. An “admission” is defined as a “lawful entry.”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Sanchez’s LPR application, but the District Court ruled in his favor, holding the statute required that a TPS recipient “shall be considered as” having “lawful status as a nonimmigrant” for purposes of applying to become an LPR.
The Third Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court granted cert. to resolve a circuit split.
The Supreme Court denied Sanchez relief, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Kagan.
“The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them,” the Court said. “So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant (like Sanchez) eligible under Sec. 1255 for adjustment to LPR status.”
“Section 1255, applied according to its plain terms, prevents Sanchez from becoming an LPR,” the Court said. “Sec. 1255 requires an LPR applicant like Sanchez to have entered the county ‘lawful[ly].’”
“Lawful status and admission … are distinct concepts in immigration law,” the Court said. A person can be “admitted but not in lawful status,” such as a student who entered on a student visa but stayed past graduation.
A person can also be “in lawful status but not admitted,” such as someone who enters the country unlawfully but then receives asylum.
Sanchez is in this second category, the Court said.
“The TPS statute permits him to remain in the country; and it deems him in nonimmigrant status for purposes of applying to become an LPR,” the Court said. “But the statute does not constructively ‘admit’ a TPS recipient,” the Court said.
“And because of grant of TPS does not come with a ticket of admission, it does not eliminate the disqualifying effect of an unlawful entry.”