Mother of Cancer Patient Faces Deportation Despite Medical Deferred Action Program

An 8-year-old girl in U.S. legally to fight cancer might see her mom deported, and no one will explain why” by Jeff Gammage, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 19, 2020

Last Fall, the Trump administration quietly terminated the medical deferred action program, a long-standing policy allowing individuals to temporarily remain in the United States while they or their family members receive treatment for life-threatening medical conditions. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ostensibly reinstated the program after significant congressional and public pressure, the agency is continuing to target for deportation people who have long received protection under the program.

Lizbeth Cunanan is the primary caretaker for her 8-year-old daughter, Lucia, who is battling leukemia. In 2012, she entered the United States on a visa with her daughter to receive lifesaving medical care. When Lucia was in remission, the family left the United States. However, they came back—again on a visa—in 2014 when Lucia’s cancer had returned and she needed a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor. The family has remained here ever since, first on their visa and later, for a number of years, through the medical deferred action program.

In February 2019, the Trump administration renewed protections from deportation for Lucia, her father, and her younger brother, but inexplicably refused to extend them for Lizbeth. Separating this family and denying Lucia the critical care she receives from her mother is cruel and inhumane. It is impossible to make sense of how taking Lizbeth away from her daughter could be viewed as a smart and effective exercise of enforcement discretion. Although DHS’ decision likely does not violate the law, it illustrates how an official act of cruelty can nevertheless undermine faith in the rule of law and diminish public confidence in the U.S. immigration system.

For more on how official acts of cruelty can undermine the rule of law and how the United States can build a fair, humane, and workable immigration system, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”