The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington recently ruled in Ramirez v Dougherty that a noncitizen’s grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) qualifies as “inspection and admission” into the United States. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, “inspection and admission” to the United States are minimum eligibility requirements in order to be eligible for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency. An applicant who was not inspected and admitted must return to his or her home country to process the immigrant visa, which is a costly, uncertain, and lengthy process.
In the case, the plaintiff, Jesus Ramirez, was granted TPS in 2001 following the devastating earthquake in El Salvador, his home country, and has renewed TPS status ever since. He sought to become an LPR on the basis of his marriage to a United States citizen. The court wrote that it based its’ decision on the language of the TPS statute. The court also noted important policy reasons supporting its interpretation, stressing that Mr. Ramirez had been in the United States for approximately fifteen years, had established roots here, and “has waited his turn for an independent, legal, and legitimate pathway to citizenship, through the immediate relative visa application.” Relying on a prior decision from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the court found that the government’s solution – which would require Mr. Ramirez to leave the country, be readmitted, and then go through the immigration process all over again – was a “waste of energy, time, government resources, and will have negative effects on his family.”
We applaud this decision and hope that it causes the government to take a hard look at its processes that require excessive amounts of time, energy and unnecessary government resources. The Western District’s decision could be applied by the agency nationwide, leading more deserving non-citizens to be granted permanent resident status.