The Decision To End Medical Relief Policy Leaves Undocumented Families In Fear. The Trump administration has taken steps this month to end a medical relief policy that allows some undocumented immigrants with serious medical issues to remain in the US while receiving medical care, CNN report. Putting an end to the policy has led to fear and confusion for families. USCIS sent letters to family members who had previously requested relief from deportation, giving the excuse that the agencies field offices no longer consider requests for deferred action, except for certain military exceptions. After the media gave a report about the change in policy, US Citizenship and Immigration Service said its field offices would no longer consider non-military requests for deferred action – temporary relief from deportation.
The Decision To End Medical Relief Policy Leaves Undocumented Families In Fear
According to a spokesperson, the agency said it will rather defer to ICE to determine if non-military issues warrant deferred action. ICE has a say on who will and won’t be deported or arrested.
The director of Immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, Anthony Marino said, “The government has threatened to deport them, it also means they are no longer able to provide for themselves. Parents no longer have the ability to work.” Marino represents families in requests for deportation relief. His clients received letters that said “they are not authorized to remain in the United States. If you fail to depart the US within 33 days of the date of this letter, USCIS may commence deportation proceedings.”
Some of the families Marino works with have children who are in need of medical care, some of which have cancer, HIV or the need for feeding tubes or wheelchairs. In most cases, families who sought relief had sick children who were citizens of US. He said those families had to decide if they should abandon the children or stay. He added that,
“the families are confused and scared to the bone. They fear for their lives. They are having serious conversations. Parents are asking questions like do I have to make my child orphan?”
According to USCIS, those in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or other established programs such as deferred action related to the Violence Against Women Act and the U Visa waiting list for some victims of certain crimes willing to assist authorities are not affected by the shift. Each year, USCIS received about 1,000 non-military deferred action, some of which were not approved, the agency said. Most of these types of requests are related to family support or medical case.
In a statement with USCIS spokesperson on Friday, he said this procedural shift took effect in August 7, 2019. Any pending report will be denied and requestors will be sent notice by mail. There is no apples-to-apples comparison between the USCIS and ICE procedures.
ICE said they do not accept applications for deferred action, a discretionary act that allows the Department of Homeland Security to prevent or delay immigration enforcement. ICE’s discretion is so broad and they exercises that discretion, as appropriate on a case-by-case basis throughout the immigration enforcement process in so many ways
The USCIS announcement about shifting the deferment responsibility caught the agency off guard. One ICE official said, “Nobody consulted the agency before statements were made to the press”. Again, there is no new program at ICE for medical deferment.
On Friday, USCIS spokesperson defended the decision saying that,
“the move was made because it is not appropriate for the agency to adjudicate requests for suspended enforcement not clearly assigned to USCIS in law or policy. However, the agency has also updated its procedures to reflect that. USCIS coordinated with ICE ahead of this procedural change.”
Lawmakers and immigration advocates expressed outrage over the change. Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat tweeted,
“Children suffering from cancer, cystic fibrosis, as well as muscular dystrophy are now being told that they must leave the United States or be put in the hands of ICE. We must not allow this to happen.” This is a barbaric policy that is even more dehumanizing.
The American Civil Liberties Union along with other organizations have decided to challenge the change in court. The ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose said, “By suddenly ending a program that expressly protects sick children and their families, the administration may be sending people to their deaths.”