Last Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedent decision that will open the door for undocumented immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to apply for adjustment of status. Specifically, the court held that a grant of TPS constitutes an admission for purposes of adjustment of status under INA § 245(a).
The plaintiff in Ramirez v. Brown entered the United States without inspection in 1999, obtained TPS in 2001—which he has continuously maintained ever since—and married a U.S. citizen in 2012. His wife’s I-130 petition was approved, and he applied for adjustment of status. USCIS denied his adjustment application, alleging that he was not “admitted or paroled” as required by INA 245(a). He filed suit in district court, and following a decision in his favor, the government appealed. The Ninth Circuit sustained the district court’s favorable decision.
In particular, the Ninth Circuit considered INA § 244(f)(4), which specifies that “for purposes of adjustment of status under [INA § 245(a), the noncitizen] shall be considered as being in, and maintaining, lawful status as a nonimmigrant.” Applying traditional tools of statutory interpretation, the Court held that this language “unambiguously treats [noncitizens] with TPS as being ‘admitted’ for purposes of adjusting status.” In so holding, the Court agreed with an earlier decision of the Sixth Circuit, Flores v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 718 F.3d 548 (6th Cir. 2013), and rejected the opposite holding in Serrano v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 655 F.3d 1260 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam).