The Supreme Court unanimously decided Monday that immigrants who have Temporary Protective Status cannot apply for a green card to become permanent residents if they entered the country illegally.
The decision affects an estimated 320,000 foreign nationals now living in the U.S. who are protected by TPS. The program gives foreign nationals the privilege to stay in the U.S. legally if they are unable to return to their home country due to war, civil unrest or a natural disaster, according to ABC News.
"The TPS program gives foreign nationals nonimmigrant status, but it does not admit them. So the conferral of TPS does not make an unlawful entrant...eligible" for a green card, Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court opinion, according to the Associated Press.
The case was brought to the court by Jose Santos Sanchez, an immigrant from El Salvador who entered the U.S. illegally in 1993. Sanchez was granted TPS in 2001 and attempted to apply for a green card in 2014 but was deemed ineligible due to illegally entering the country.
The decision does not affect immigrants who entered the country legally or those who overstayed their visas from attempting to procure green cards, with Kagan arguing those individuals entered the country legally.