June 07, 2021

Supreme Court Decides Sanchez v. Mayorkas

On June 7, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Sanchez v. Mayorkas, No. 20-315, holding that a foreign national with Temporary Protected Status was not entitled to an adjustment of status to make him a Lawful Permanent Resident because he had originally entered the country unlawfully and had not been admitted as required by the adjustment of status statute.

Jose Santos Sanchez originally entered the United States from El Salvador unlawfully in 1997. In 2001, Sanchez obtained Temporary Protected Status, making his presence in the United States lawful despite his initial unlawful entry. Sanchez petitioned for an adjustment of status to become a Lawful Permanent Resident under 8 U.S.C. § 1255 in 2014. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his petition, concluding that because that statute requires a petitioner be lawfully admitted to the United States, an original lawful entry was a threshold requirement for an adjustment of status under that statute.

Sanchez sought review, and the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey found in his favor, concluding that a grant of Temporary Protected Status requires treating the foreign national as though they had been lawfully admitted into the United States. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that a grant of Temporary Protected Status is not an admission into the United States, and is only a status permitting continued presence in the United States. Sanchez petitioned for certiorari, and the Supreme Court granted his petition to resolve a circuit split over whether a recipient of Temporary Protected Status who entered the country unlawfully can still become a Lawful Permanent Resident.

The Supreme Court looked to the plain language of section 1255, noting that it requires that a petitioner for an adjustment of status must be “inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States” or otherwise be present in the United States “pursuant to a lawful admission.” Because Mr. Sanchez had not been “inspected and admitted,” and was not present “pursuant to a lawful admission,” he was ineligible for an adjustment of status under section 1255. The Court then looked to the Temporary Protected Status statute, 8 U.S.C. § 1254a, and confirmed that the statute does not “constructively admit” a person receiving Temporary Protected Status into the United States, and therefore does not make a recipient’s originally unlawful entry lawful. The Court concluded that because Mr. Sanchez had not been lawfully admitted into the United States, he was not eligible for an adjustment of status, despite holding Temporary Protected Status.

Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the unanimous court.

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