Policy Summary
This past August, the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) eliminated their ‘Medical Deferred Action’ program for individuals who may avoid deportation whilst they and/or their family members were undergoing medical treatment. Medical Deferred Action was intended as a temporary agenda, to be modified and made more robust, but not eliminated. This special program for individuals with rare diseases who may not have access to treatments in their home country rely heavily on the medical treatments they can  receive in the US – which also aids scientific development of medicines to treat such rare diseases. The agency sent letters to individuals previously exempt from deportation, giving them a 33 day notice to leave the country or else face deportation. Requests for deferred action must now be made to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE – the agency responsible for deportations) instead of USCIS. Previously, individuals had to re-apply/renew their deferred action every couple of years and many have been renewed for decades now. Those same individuals received letters from the USCIS telling them that their program support was coming to an end.. The elimination of the program is technically still under review, but it is unclear if there will be a limited version of deferred action or if the program  will be eliminated entirely.

CBS reached out to USCIS to inquire about the abrupt change, but they provided no answers and instead deflected by re-directing them to ICE. Confusingly, an ICE official told CBS that they were not previously consulted about the change but alerted once the letters were sent out to migrants. In reality, the government does not have  the time nor the resources to deport literally every single unauthorized immigrant.

As the news of this program termination began to trickle out, public outrage led to a temporary reversal by the Trump Administration. Roughly 100 members of Congress officially denounced this and wrote letters to senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security urging them to reverse their decision.

There is a huge lack of transparency surrounding the end of this program. No public announcements were made, just private letters to specific individuals. The program termination is a death sentence for many of the individuals in the US under Medical Deferred Action. A number of individuals would essentially be sent home to die.

In the past 6 months, the Trump Administration also decided it would abstain from giving flu vaccinations to migrant families held in border detention centers, despite 3 deaths of migrant children due to the flu. These are subtle, but dire actions of intentional cruelty under the existing guise of national security.

Resistance Resources

  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • FWD.us: an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.

Photo by
unsplash-logoElias Castillo

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