WATCH LIVE: U.S. House Convenes to Debate Immigration Bills in Washington, D.C.

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    (Apr. 20) The U.S. Supreme Court suggested it was poised to block applications for permanent residency from thousands of immigrants who are living in the country under a program that gives them temporary legal status because their home nations are in crisis.

    Hearing arguments by phone Monday, the justices indicated they would bar green-card applications from people who entered the country illegally and later secured Temporary Protected Status. Justice Brett Kavanaugh told a lawyer representing a Salvadoran couple she had an “uphill climb” in arguing that federal immigration law lets her clients seek permanent residency.

    “We need to be careful about tinkering with the immigration statutes as written, particularly when Congress has such a primary role here,” Kavanaugh said. “Why should we jump in here, when Congress is very focused on immigration?”

    The case is pitting immigration advocates against President Joe Biden’s administration, which is defending what it says is a 30-year government practice of rejecting applications from illegal entrants. Biden’s team inherited the case from former President Donald Trump’s administration, which formalized the policy.

    Some of the court’s conservative justices wondered why the Biden team wasn’t being more forceful in its arguments. The new administration has stopped short of explicitly saying, as the Trump team did, that its position was “clearly” the best reading of the key statutory language.

    The Biden administration instead says the court should defer to the government’s interpretation as a reasonable one, a position that might leave the government free to adopt a different approach later.

    “I was struck by the extent to which your brief undersold your position,” Chief Justice John Roberts told a Justice Department lawyer.

    TPS currently covers more than 400,000 people from about dozen countries. More than 250,000 are from El Salvador, who under federal law must have had continuous presence in the U.S. since 2001. TPS shields recipients from deportation and lets them hold jobs legally.

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