Skip to main content

SCOTUS Set to Hear Oral Arguments in CARES Act and Immigration Cases Handed Down from Trump to Biden Administration — What to Know


On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear cases inherited by the Biden Administration from its predecessor. Because of the change in administrations, some of the case captions have changed from Law&Crime’s prior coverage, as “Mnuchin” is replaced by “Yellen” (Janet Yellen is President Joe Biden’s Treasury secretary) and “Wolf” is replaced by “Mayorkas” (Alejandro Mayorkas is the Secretary of Homeland Security).

CARES Act Funding for Native American Tribal Governments

The first cases up for Monday’s oral arguments are the consolidated cases of Yellen, Sec. of Treasury v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. The cases challenge distributions of CARES Act funding.

Under the CARES Act, approximately $8 million in financial aid was to be given to “tribal governments” and was specifically earmarked for easing the monetary burdens created by COVID-19. The problem, according to the tribal government plaintiffs, was that 230 Alaska Native for-profit corporations (ANCs) received funding that had not been meant for them.

In Alaska, Congress statutorily created a different relationship with native people from what it has in the lower 48 states. Instead of using reservations, “regional corporations” and “village corporations” were created in Alaska. These ANCs are private corporations with shareholders that include both Indians and non-Indians.

The language used by Congress to authorized distribution of CARES Act funds mandated funding for “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation . . . which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”

The plaintiff tribal governments claim that funds diverted to the corporations deprived them of basic needs, and that ANCs (unlike them) have the ability to seek alternate sources of funding. The ANCs argue that Alaskan Native people should be entitled to the same funding other native groups, and should not be penalized for their “unique” system established with ANCs.

Green Cards for Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status

Also on Monday, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in Sanchez v. Mayorkas.

The case asks whether immigrants who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are eligible to become lawful permanent residents, if those immigrants originally entered the United States without being authorized by an immigration officer.

Temporary Protected Status” is an immigration category based on certain foreign countries being designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security as temporarily unsafe for individuals to return. In response to various humanitarian crises, the Secretary will designate countries appropriate for TPS based on temporary conditions such as ongoing civil war, environmental disaster, or epidemic; nationals of those countries who are already in the U.S. will then be granted TPS for a limited time.

Jose Santos Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez are a married couple from El Salvador. They have four children, the youngest of which is a U.S. citizen. Sanchez and Gonzalez entered the United States in 2001, but at that time they were not “inspected and admitted” — an immigration term meaning “officially authorized by an immigration officer.” Because El Salvador was experiencing earthquakes, the couple received Temporary Protected Status.

In 2007, Sanchez’s employer successfully petitioned for Sanchez to become eligible for an employment-based immigrant visa. Later, Sanchez applied for lawful-permanent-resident status (known as a “green card”) for himself and his wife. They were denied, because they had never been “inspected and admitted” when they first arrived in the United States.

Lawyers for Sanchez and Gonzalez argue that the Court should resolve a split among the federal circuit courts on this issue, and settle the matter for thousands of immigrants similarly situated. They argue that Congress’ intent in designing TPS was to provide a “safe harbor” for individuals whose home countries are experiencing humanitarian crises. Therefore, requiring those same individuals to return to their home countries before returning to be “inspected and admitted,” thwarts the basic rationale for the status’ creation.

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos