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USCIS Reinstates Medical Deferred Action Program After Congressional Pressure and Public Backlash

Deportation Exemptions to Resume for Immigrants Needing Medical Treatment” by Miriam Jordan, The New York Times

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would reinstate the medical deferred action program it had quietly terminated only weeks earlier. Under the long-standing policy, some individuals may receive permission to remain temporarily in the country while they or their family members receive medical treatment or participate in clinical trials for life-threatening conditions. Without any public rollout, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suddenly notified hundreds of individuals—including children—that they would have to leave the United States in 33 days or face deportation.

Some of these individuals testified last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sharing moving details of their critical conditions and explaining how the deferred action policy has ensured their survival. Maria Isabel Bueso, a 24-year-old woman from Guatemala who has remained in the country lawfully for 16 years as a deferred action recipient, powerfully testified, “If we return to Guatemala, I will not have access to the medical care and treatment I need and I will die. But I want to live. I am a human being with hopes and dreams for my life.”

The lack of transparency and humanity displayed by the administration—which received significant pressure from members of Congress and the public before it agreed to reverse course—illustrates how the Trump administration has systematically dismantled the basic tools that past administrations of both parties have relied upon to achieve some semblance of a workable, humane immigration system out of our fundamentally broken system. Egregious displays of official cruelty like this diminish public confidence in and respect for federal immigration policy and undermine respect for the rule of law.

For more on how to reframe the immigration debate, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”