Supreme Court Rules Against Immigrants Seeking Green Cards

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that immigrants allowed to stay in the United States temporarily for humanitarian reasons may not apply for green cards if they had entered the country unlawfully.

The case, Sanchez v. Mayorkas, No. 20-315, could affect tens of thousands of immigrants. It was brought by Jose Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez, natives of El Salvador who entered the United States unlawfully in the late 1990s.

In 2001, after earthquakes devastated El Salvador, the United States made that country’s nationals eligible for the “temporary protected status” program. The program shields immigrants from parts of the world undergoing armed conflicts and natural disasters from deportation and allows them to work in the United States.

Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Gonzalez, a married couple, were granted protection under the program. In 2014, they applied for lawful permanent residency, commonly known as a green card. After their application was denied, they sued.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against them, saying they were ineligible under a part of the immigration laws that requires applicants to have been “inspected and admitted” into the United States.

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