This week the Trump administration ended deferrals of deportation for immigrants with severe medical conditions, giving them only 33 days before they must leave the country and lose access to live saving treatment that they cannot receive in their home countries.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent out letters this week without any formal announcement to the public about ending the medical deferred action program. The program allowed immigrants or their relatives to receive medical treatment without fear of deportation. The agency receives around 1,000 deferred action applications a year.
The agency said that medical related deferred action requests are now the responsibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement event though ICE has said they were not notified of the change and potentially do not have the ability to take on this role.
Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) plans to call for a congressional oversight hearing after learning of the denial letters being sent out. “What’s so troubling about this, beyond the cruelty of it, is the lack of transparency around the process,” said Pressley. “There was no public comment period, not even a public announcement of this, and so I’m working with my colleagues to get answers and to urge this administration to change course.”
Many of the individuals receiving treatment are children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and other more rare disorders that require specific and specialized care. A significant portion of those who came to seek treatment in the U.S. cannot receive the same care in their home countries. Many are calling the decision to end the medical deferred action program a “death sentence” because of this.
“I have been feeling super scared and overwhelmed,” said Maria Isabel Bueso, who suffers from a rare genetic disease. “The treatment that I receive keeps me alive.” Lawyers are scrambling to prevent their clients from being deported, but have not received any information on how to proceed.
Sources: NPR 8/27/19; NYT 8/29/19