A unanimous ruling by the US Supreme Court on Monday affects thousands of North Carolina immigrants who have been granted temporary protection status. The Supreme Court ruled that those who entered the country illegally and were later granted temporary protection status, often referred to as TPS, are not eligible to apply for permanent residence.
About 12,000 immigrants with TPS live in North Carolina. According to the Congressional Research Service, that is around 4% of holders of temporary protection status in the United States
While this decision doesn’t apply to TPS holders who have legally entered the country, Charlotte Immigration Attorney Janeen Hicks Pierre says the decision affects most TPS holders.
“Most of the time, when you’re fleeing your country because of a civil war, earthquake, tornado, hurricane or Ebola outbreak, and you have to go to the United States,” said Hicks Pierre. “Often you are looking for humanitarian aid and do not come with a visa and have no time, or the infrastructure or your country is destroyed and you have no option.”
This temporary status is granted to immigrants from 12 designated countries suffering from civil wars or natural disasters. Most recently, Venezuela and Haiti were added to the list.
One of the requirements for applying for permanent residence is legal admission in the United States. Prior to the decision, obtaining TPS was not considered a permit for North Carolina immigrants. Immigrants had to get special permission to leave the country and re-enter legally.
Immigration attorney Cynthia Aziz says there are many barriers for TPS holders trying to venture down this path. These include financial, security, and legal concerns.
“Those who were hoping to apply for status adjustment so they don’t have to return to their countries for processing are not now eligible to apply for legal status,” said Aziz.
One path to citizenship for TPS holders was already limited to those who were sponsored by an employer or who had family members who were citizens. Raul Pinto, executive officer of the North Carolina Justice Center, said the Supreme Court decision further limited options.
“It’s a mixed feeling, especially since we know there are thousands of TPS recipients in North Carolina who might be eligible to use the TPS as a license,” said Pinto. “There is a lot to be said about the status they gain in the process they go through to gain TPS. This is very similar to any other immigrant who has entered the country. In that regard, I think this will have a negative impact on these people and their path to citizenship. “
Pinto says the road to citizenship for TPS holders is now in the hands of Congress.
“I think our two senators (Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) have a hand in supporting a bill that will allow people with TPS to be on the path to adjustment status,” said Pinto. “Many North Carolinians who have TPS have been here for years, if not decades. These people have contributed to our communities, economically as well as culturally and socially. And so it is imperative that Congress act and provide them with a route to citizenship. “
The law was passed in the House of Representatives in March, but has not yet reached the Senate.
The national TPS Alliance has scheduled a vigil in front of Tillis’ office in Charlotte for Thursday at 10 a.m.
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