Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Agency’s Unlawful Denial of Green Cards for TPS Holders


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 8, 2021

New York, NY – Three Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders filed a class action lawsuit challenging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ decision to rescind a decades-old policy which allowed them to seek lawful permanent resident status (green cards).  

Immigration law permits TPS holders to travel abroad temporarily with prior agency approval. For nearly three decades, USCIS and its predecessor found such individuals, upon their lawful return to the United States, to have been “inspected and admitted or paroled”—one of the requirements for gaining lawful permanent resident status. In August 2020, however, USCIS adopted Matter of Z-R-Z-C-, an Administrative Appeals Office decision holding that a TPS holder’s lawful return did not satisfy the inspection and admission or parole requirement. Instead, under current policy, TPS holders who first entered the United States without inspection are found ineligible for green cards even after they are subsequently inspected upon returning from travel abroad.

All Plaintiffs have maintained TPS for at least twenty years and now seek to become lawful permanent residents through their U.S. citizen spouses. They all traveled abroad temporarily with permission and lawfully returned to the United States after August 2020. All of them would be eligible for green cards but for USCIS’s current policy, which does not recognize them as being inspected and admitted or paroled.

Represented by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, National Immigration Litigation Alliance, and Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, the plaintiffs allege that USCIS’s policy violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and agency regulations. The lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the agency from applying the new policy and to order USCIS to reopen and readjudicate any class members’ applications that were denied.

“In adopting Matter of Z-R-Z-C- as agency policy, USCIS shut the door to permanent residency for an untold number of noncitizens who have lived for years in lawful Temporary Protected Status,” said Mary Kenney, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Litigation Alliance. “The decision—which abruptly reversed three decades of agency policy—is legally flawed and unnecessarily harsh.”

“USCIS’s policy violates the admissions framework Congress created and harms valued members of our community,” said Leila Kang, a staff attorney at NWIRP. “TPS holders who have built their families and livelihoods in the U.S. should not be deprived of the opportunity to remain with their loved ones.”

The complaint can be viewed here.

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Media contacts:

Mary Kenney, National Immigration Litigation Alliance
(617) 819-4681; mary@immigrationlitigation.org

Leila Kang, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
(206) 816-3847; leila@nwirp.org

The National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) is a newly founded immigrants’ rights nonprofit that strives to protect, enforce, and expand the rights of noncitizens and individuals perceived to be noncitizens by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of immigration attorneys to litigate in federal court. NILA seeks to accomplish the later through its co-counseling and strategic assistance programs as well as through publications and presentations. Follow the latest NILA news and information at www.immigrationlitigation.org and on Twitter at @NILA_ImmLit.