The United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that people who entered the U.S. unlawfully but have temporary protected status due to humanitarian crises in countries such as Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan will not be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
The Temporary Protected Status program provides temporary residency to people from designated nations who entered the United States unlawfully but cannot return to their home country because it is dealing with the effects of an ongoing conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary humanitarian conditions.
There are currently 400,000 people from 12 countries with Temporary Protected Status. Three African countries are currently designated for TPS: Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.
The court case decided Monday centers around a man from El Salvador who is living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status due to El Salvador’s poor living conditions. The court unanimously held that a person’s TPS does not enable them to apply for legal permanent residence despite entering the country unlawfully.
“The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them. So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant…eligible” for a green card, wrote Justice Kagan.
Monday’s decision does not, however, apply to people with TPS who entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visa. These people are eligible to apply for green cards.
In its 2021 world report, Human Rights Watch detailed “conflict, security forces’ violations, entrenched impunity, and a lack of respect for rule of law” in South Sudan, a “failing economy and political tensions” in Sudan, and “conflict-related abuses, insecurity, and a humanitarian crisis” in Somalia.
In Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan, ongoing conflict and human rights violations have combined with the Covid-19 pandemic to create a severe humanitarian crisis, causing some to seek refuge in the United States.
The countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were previously designated for Temporary Protected Status for a short time while the Ebola virus ravaged these nations and prevented nationals from returning home safely. This status ended when the epidemic subsided in 2017.
The 12 countries with current TPS designations are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.