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More uncertainty for severely ill immigrants

The Trump Administration gave sick people 33 days to leave the country or be deported after ending a deferred action plan allowing them to receive medical care that they would not get in their home countries

Critically ill immigrants will no longer receive lifesaving medical care and face deportation after the Trump administration reversed a medical deferred action policy last month, according to House majority leaders.

“The administration decided to cast out some of the most vulnerable and defenseless people on earth,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-MD at a hearing on Wednesday in the House Subcommittee on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.

On August 7, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent a letter to families informing them that they were no longer adjudicating requests for deferred action and they had 33 days to leave the country or be deported.

Nearly all of the people benefitting from the program suffer from severe medical cases like cystic fibrosis, cancer, muscular dystrophy, and a range of other diseases.

Many of these families were not able to receive the proper medical care and medicine in their home countries to help them survive, according to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, D-MA.

“Their lives are hanging in the balance,” said Pressley.

Maria Isabel Bueso, a 24 year old recent college graduate, testified before the subcommittee as one of the recipients of deferred action.

“The medical treatment I need is not available in Guatemala,” said Bueso. She came to the United States in 2003 after she was invited to participate in a clinical trial to save her life.

According to Bueso, her family received another letter from USCIS stating that her medical case would be re-opened and transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

With no other information or explanation from either ICE or USCIS, Bueso and her family’s immigration status remains in limbo.

On August 7, USCIS privately decided it would no longer process requests for deferred action, a form of temporary relief from deportation for applicants facing extreme circumstances like severe medical cases. There was no public announcement about the reversal.

USCIS did not notify the public until September 2, 2019 when it sent an additional letter to the 424 families that they would only process cases that were pending “on or before” August 2.

Many families who applied for deferred action after the August end date were denied almost immediately, according to Anthony Marino, the director of Immigration Legal Services at the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston, MA.

Marino also testified at the hearing and said he had to notify people who were applying or in the program already and has “had some of the most difficult conversations” over the past two weeks.

The action plan does not provide formal legal status but does allow work authorization, according to Penn State Law Professor Shoba Wadhia.

“The U.S. used deferred action in medical and humanitarian cases for decades,” said Wadhia. “The idea is longstanding, and in fact customary.”

Republican representatives at the hearing argued for more national security protections and solutions for the “spike” in the number of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.

Representative Chip Roy, R-MD, said the people who deserve compassion who are abused on their journey to the U.S.

“Let’s talk about compassion owed to our law enforcement personnel, who are trashed on a daily basis by members of the United States Congress,” said Roy.

Neither ICE nor USCIS had any additional information for families who receive medical care, nor were they able to comment on the plan to reverse deferred action.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders are pressing for more answers on behalf of their constituents as to why this reversal happened and what ICE plans to do with pending medical cases.

Daniel Renaud, the Associate Director of Field Operations for USCIS, testified before the subcommittee hearing seemingly unable to provide any context or answers.

“I am unable to answer that question,” said Renaud.










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