Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.
The United States is one of the countries in the world that offers citizens of some politically and economically challenged nations temporary refuge in the country, as part of the Temporary Protected Status program of the Immigration Act of 1990. These countries include El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Till now, holders of the TPS visa were eligible for permanent residency and citizenship, based on fulfillment of the eligibility criteria laid out by the USCIS for the TPS applications. One of the eligibility criteria for TPS visa holders to be considered for a green card is to undergo an “inspection and admission” process, certifying that the applicant has undergone the mandatory security check.
But as per the current Trump government decisions, any and all TPS visa holders who entered the country without the “inspection and admission” process at the port of entry are now automatically disqualified from applying for a green card, notwithstanding that a stringent security check has been administered to them post-arrival.
According to the recent ruling, all immigrants who were subjected to the “inspection and admission” process at points after the port of entry may officially be disqualified from applying for a green card and may be deported upon expiry of their TPS visas.
The end of the American Dream?
For the thousands who hold TPS visas, the ruling comes as a death sentence. Having spent decades in the country building a home and a life, now parents, spouses and children may be forced to leave the security of the United States for the dangers of their home countries, many of which are still in the grips of economic and political turmoil.
Many TPS visa holders are employers themselves, having started businesses and given employment to citizens of the United States. If the ruling comes into force, it may be the end for thousands of people across the country.
But all isn’t lost. Immigrant rights advocates have filed a Class I lawsuit against the USCIS, questioning the legality and basis of the Government’s claims to the status of TPS visa holders. The lawsuit, which is currently ongoing, questions the continued misinterpretation and violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Based on the lawsuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Ninth Circuits have moved the USCIS to follow the letter of the law correctly and to grant the green card to those TPS applicants who have followed the application and security process as required. But, the lawsuit is still in progress and the final verdict is yet to be announced. For now only time will tell what future is in store for TPS visa holders in the United States.