The outcome in a case involving a couple from El Salvador who have been in the US since the 1990s turned on whether people who entered the country illegally and were given humanitarian protections were ever "admitted" into the United States under immigration law.
He urged the court to defer to the position taken by the agency in the case and he noted that there are "tens of thousands" of TPS holders who have adjusted their status, but they had been lawfully admitted as a student or an au pair or a temporary worker.
Jose Santos Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez left their home country of El Salvador and entered the US unlawfully in 1997.
"Petitioner Jose Santos Sanchez entered this country unlawfully from El Salvador". They have four sons, the youngest of whom was born in the United States.
The TPS program allows individuals from countries in crisis to temporarily reside in the United States while adverse conditions continue to exist at home.
The TPS designation applies to migrants who came to the U.S.to escape war or natural disasters in their homelands. "But the statute does not constructively "admit" a TPS recipient".
And another provision says that a person who has worked without authorization in the country - as Sanchez did for several years - may become a [lawful permanent resident] only if his presence in the United States is "pursuant to a lawful admission". But his administration, like the Trump administration, argued that current immigration law doesn't permit people who entered the country illegally to apply for permanent residency.
A federal law called the Immigration and Nationality Act generally requires that people seeking to become permanent residents have been "inspected and admitted" into the United States. "So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant. eligible [for a green card]", she added. "We hold that it does not", Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the opinion.
'They clearly were not admitted at the borders, so is that a fiction, is it metaphysical, what is it?
Kagan's conclusion is blunt: USA law "generally requires a lawful admission before a person can obtain LPR status".
"Because a grant of TPS does not come with a ticket of admission, it does not eliminate the disqualifying effect of an unlawful entry".
During oral arguments on April 19, Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to foreshadow the court's decision in the case. "Don't you think ... if Congress was intending to do what you want, it was nearly certain there would be more explicit language?"
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the U.S. government's decision to deny Sanchez his request for LPR status, with the opinion of the court noting that while Congress has the authority to change the laws to grant immigrants like Sanchez LPR status, the current statues do not allow him it now.
"Thankfully, today the Court declined to water down the law, but instead maintained the standard that illegal entry into our country will not be tolerated, much less rewarded", Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, said in a statement.