Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the immigration program known as Temporary Protected Status — protected from deportation — doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent stay.

The court’s unanimous decision may represent a pause in the relentless pursuit by President Joe Biden’s administration of never-ending, permanent immigration increases both at the border and, through weakened enforcement, in the interior. One can hope!

The case, Sanchez v. Mayorkas, was relatively straightforward.

In the 1990s, Jose Santos Sanchez and his wife, Sonia Gonzalez, illegally entered the United States from El Salvador. The federal government granted them TPS in 2001 when the United States included El Salvador as part of the TPS program after that country’s Jan. 13 earthquake. TPS allows unlawfully present foreign nationals to remain if conditions are deemed unsafe in their home countries.

For two decades, Democratic and Republican White Houses have on multiple occasions extended El Salvador’s TPS time limits. During those 20 years, Sanchez and Gonzalez stayed in valid TPS status. Sanchez’s employer, a yacht company, also filed — and was granted — a skilled-worker immigration-visa petition on his behalf.

The government, however, denied the couple’s subsequent application to use the adjustment-of-status process to make the transition to permanent residency from temporary.

Citing the Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 1255 (a), which restricts the in-country adjustment-of-status process to noncitizens who were “inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S.,” immigration officials ruled that the couple’s original unauthorized entry disqualified them from obtaining the Green Cards they sought. Neither Sanchez nor Gonzales was inspected, admitted or paroled.

During arguments in April, Justice Brett Kavanaugh hinted at the eventual decision, telling lawyers for Sanchez and Gonzales: “We need to be careful about tinkering with the immigration statutes as written, particularly when Congress has such a primary role here. You have an uphill climb.”

Justice Elena Kagan confirmed Kavanaugh’s skepticism when she wrote in her opinion that “Lawful status and admission … are distinct concepts in immigration law: Establishing one does not necessarily establish the other.”

She added that “because a grant of TPS does not come with a ticket of admission, it does not eliminate the disqualifying effect of an unlawful entry.”

The ruling is the third in recent weeks in which the Supreme Court has disagreed with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal on immigration law interpretation.

Also this month, the justices set aside a ruling that presumed immigrants seeking asylum were telling the truth unless an immigration judge found an “explicit” lack of credibility. Earlier, the court ruled immigrants who were once deported could be prosecuted for an unlawful entry, even if their original deportations were questionable.

TPS is one of dozens of immigration programs that devolved from compassionate and well-intended to comically permissive. No rational person would define “temporary” as a 20-year span, the exact period that Sanchez and Gonzales have lived in New Jersey.

Whether Sanchez’s employment in the yacht company represents a “skilled” job is likely debatable; Gonzales works at Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino. The couple has American birthright citizenship children.

For Sanchez and Gonzales to return home after 20 years would be disruptive, perhaps cruel. Blame the U.S. government which doesn’t insist that TPS recipients from all nations return home when conditions permit.

The devastating impact of El Salvador’s earthquake ended long ago; the country is now a tourism hot spot. The Pew Research Center found that Salvadoran migrants, as well as those from Guatemala and Honduras, identify economic opportunity and reuniting with relatives as the reasons they traveled north, not personal safety.

Were Salvadorans with admirable work ethics like Sanchez and Gonzales to return to El Salvador, they could become agents for change in that troubled country.

Since TPS is poorly administered — no one goes home — the program has no credibility. TPS represents a ticket to lifetime U.S. residency.

Central Americans who refuse to go home, and the U.S. government that refuses to make them go home after civil wars and natural disasters have ended are, like Sanchez and Gonzalez, holding U.S. jobs that would otherwise be filled by unemployed Americans.

But as expected given its expansionist agenda, the Biden administration added Venezuela and Burma to the TPS-eligible list, bringing the total nations to 12, and the total persons covered to more than 600,000.

In the government’s eyes, more immigration is always better.

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org, or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated columnist writing about immigration and related social issues. A California native who now lives in Pittsburgh, he’s a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who can be reached at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org. The opinions expressed are his own.