The Trump administration has been making it increasingly difficult for legal immigrants to use social services. He's reportedly stopped supplying flu vaccines to migrants in detention facilities in addition to other changes.
On Aug. 7, the administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly axed a medical deferred action program that permitted sick undocumented immigrants and their families to stay in the U.S. to get treatment. Rolling Stone reports that after USCIS eliminated the program, families with pending applications were informed through letters that they had 33 days to leave the country or could be deported. USCIS verified this week that the program has ended.
Undocumented immigrants and their families request deferred action for a number of conditions, including cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and epilepsy. USCIS has said it gets almost 1,000 deferred action requests a year.
According to USCIS, deferred action applicants can bring their cases to ICE. This option wasn’t detailed in the letters and an ICE official told ABC News that the agency didn’t know about the policy change until it was shared in the press and there’s no process to accept deferred action applications.
“They’re lying,” Anthony Marino of the Irish International Immigrant Center, told Rolling Stone, referring to USCIS’s claim that ICE can now manage requests. “These cases were being denied.… They didn’t want to own that they were eliminating a program that protected children with cancer from being torn from hospital beds and being deported. They didn’t want to own that. They’re response is to just lie about it rather than not do it.”
For some, the sick child is an American citizen but other members of the family aren’t, so undocumented parents have to decide whether to give up their child and hope for the best, or take them back to their home country.