Public outrage causes Trump administration to pause deportation of medically deferred action status persons

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On Tuesday, the New York Times reported, with a misleading headline, Faced With Criticism, Trump Administration Reverses Abrupt End to Humanitarian Relief:

The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would reconsider its decision to force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries, an abrupt move last month that generated public outrage and was roundly condemned by the medical establishment.

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On Monday, the agency said in a statement that while limiting the program was “appropriate,” officials would “complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.”

The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. However, it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country or whether the program would be continued after current applications are processed.

When asked for clarification, an agency official said the agency “is taking immediate corrective action to reopen previously pending cases for consideration.”

“Whether a very limited version of deferred action will continue forward at U.S.C.I.S. is still under review. More information will be forthcoming,” said the official, who only agreed to speak on background.

Among those who had been impacted by the administration’s decision to end the program was Maria Isabel Bueso, 24, who has participated in several medical studies, including a drug trial that resulted in a treatment for her rare disease, which causes dwarfism and other physical deformities.

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After The Times featured Ms. Bueso in an article last week, she was invited to testify before Congress in the coming days. Indignation at the policy spread on social media, and several Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, called on the Trump administration to reverse the decision.

Ms. Bueso’s lawyer, Martin Lawler, said, “It’s unclear whether people will be granted appropriate extensions or whether people like Isabel will always be living on the knife’s edge, worried that the next extension will not be granted when they are in the middle of receiving medical treatment for their serious diseases.”

A longtime advocate for people with rare diseases, Ms. Bueso said that she planned to lobby Congress to find long-term relief for patients. “We have to find a permanent solution so that families like mine don’t have to go through this again,” she said.

So just to be clear, the Trump administration has not “reversed” its cruel policy, it’s only offering a temporary reprieve from its inhumane and cruel policy. And it appears to be limiting its reconsideration of cases retroactively to those individuals who are already in the medically deferred action program. New applicants need not apply. The Trump administration is simply hoping that this story will fade from the public interest, but intends to continue its inhumane and cruel policy.

Rachel Maddow updates the status of the reporting on this story.

CommonWealth Magazine reports, Trump administration changes course on immigrant patients:

The Trump administration abruptly changed course on Monday, allowing immigrants with serious illnesses to have their denied cases to remain in the US reopened, instead of being moved into deportation proceedings.

The medical deferred status program remains shuttered, halting the initiative for any new applicants.

The Trump administration unprecedented reversal will allow thousands of immigrants to continue seeking a renewal of their former legal immigration status. Any immigrants with pending cases on August 7 will have their cases reopened. But the new policy does not reinstate the program for future immigrant patients with severe health issues.

The initial decision to do away with the medical deferred status program came to light a little over a week ago when immigrants who were receiving treatment under the program began receiving letters saying that their applications won’t be considered and they must leave the country within 33 days. In Massachusetts, over 40 adults and children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, short bowel syndrome, and other complicated health problems have been receiving treatment at various medical facilities.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency made the announcement Monday that it will reopen the review process for those with cases pending as of August 7, which was when the agency abruptly shut down the program.

“Those denied requests that were pending on August 7 did not have removal orders pending, and have not been targeted for deportation,” the agency said in a statement sent to reporters that was posted publicly.

The decision to end medical deferred action, which was taken with no public notice, garnered widespread condemnation from elected officials and medical professionals. It also spurred a Congressional hearing set for September 6. Denial letters had been received by immigrant patients and families all over the country, from California to New York, Minnesota to Florida.

[The House Committee on Oversight and Reform planned a hearing on medical deferred action for September 6, but that may be pushed to sometime next week.]

When the medical deferred action status was originally canceled, Citizenship and Immigration Services initially planned to have the law enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, deal with the deportation of immigrants. But ICE had not been told of the initial policy change and had no plan in place to implement the policy change.

The agency initially said it would not initiate deportation proceedings, but then on Friday said it would begin deporting those who stay in the country. The policy changed again on Monday, with federal officials saying immigrants with medical deferred status will not be asked to leave the country but no new applications under the program will be considered beyond those on file as of August. 7.

Citizenship and Immigration Services receives approximately 1,000 deferred action requests annually, according to the agency.

Samuel and his mother should be able to remain in Boston for now while their case is assessed by immigration services.

But if they seek to renew their application in the future, they will have to go through a deportation process with ICE, and attempt to seek relief from the agency.

“They created a problem and now pretend to solve it. They are not solving the problem with this new pronouncement, they are just punting it to be dealt with later,” said Mahsa Khanbabai, New England chair for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Khanbabai has four clients, including one 14-year-old girl with a congenital heart condition, who received the letters nine days ago.

“While families are grateful that their cases will be reviewed, they are concerned about what will come after that,” she said.

Mahsa Khanbabai, American Immigration Lawyers’ New England chapter chair, talks with Rachel Maddow about the temporary reprieve by the Trump administration to grant relief to immigrants on Medically Deferred Action and why the new policy is not only still cruel but a waste of government resources.

Contact your member of Congress and demand that this inhumane and cruel deportation policy be ended permanently, and those responsible for it be held accountable.




1 COMMENT

  1. The ACLU of Massachusetts and other civil rights advocates are suing the Trump administration to try to restart a process that has historically allowed non-citizens with serious illnesses to stay in the U.S. to get medical treatment. “Civil Rights Advocates Sue Trump Administration Over Medical Deferred Action,” https://www.wbur.org/news/2019/09/05/aclu-lawsuit-medical-deferred-action

    Lawyers for Civil Rights also joined the ACLU in filing the lawsuit on behalf of the Irish International Immigrant Center. The groups argue that the end of medical deferred action is unconstitutional.

    Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center, said the center is filing suit on behalf of about 33 immigrant individuals and families. Several are children facing life-threatening illnesses.

    According to the complaint, those 33 individuals and families represent 19 deferred action cases. Six cases involve Haitian applicants; four were filed on behalf of people from the Dominican Republic; five cases involve families or individuals from Central and South American countries; and three cases are on behalf of African families or individuals. The remaining client is a European national.

    Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU, said the Trump administration’s move to eliminate the program shows “racial animus,” citing the fact that nearly all of the center’s deferred action clients are people of color.

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