September 3, 2019
The Trump Administration has begun denying pleas from non-citizens who wish to extend their time in the United States in order to continue receiving treatment for severe medical conditions from which they suffer. Letters issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and obtained by ABC News, tell those applying for medical relief that agency offices, “no longer consider deferred action requests,” except for members of the military.
Among those affected will be Serena Badia, according to ABC, a teenage girl from Spain who has undergone heart surgery five times. Three of those procedures were back in her home country, where doctors told her she wouldn’t live past age 12.
According to the network, Serena came to America. with her mother and sister, hoping doctors here would be able to help where the Spanish surgeons failed. Serena, now age 14, has been treated here for over a year as U.S. doctors attempt to rebuild her pulmonary artery. But her treatment here now is in jeopardy after immigration authorities told her family they have 33 days to leave the U.S. or risk not being able to return.
“If they don’t let us come back to the United States, then I won’t be able to get treated,” the adolescent patient told ABC News. “We don’t know what to do because we don’t want to be illegal here.”
Former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joe Biden weighed in at a campaign stop on August 29, criticizing President Trump for “targeting” children with severe illnesses.
“We are running out of words to condemn the inhumanity of this administration,” Biden said in a statement. “There is no possible national security justification for further traumatizing sick kids at their most vulnerable.”
A 16-year-old with cystic fibrosis, a 13-year-old with muscular dystrophy and a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy are also among the children whose families received
“People are terrified and confused,” the lawyer for the young patients, Anthony Marino told ABC News. “I don’t know how people react to their government telling them to disconnect from lifesaving health care.”
USCIS, the agency in charge of legal immigration and processing visas, told ABC News that “this does not mean the end of deferred action” but rather that any requests must be submitted to a different agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the department in charge of deportations.
But the customs enforcement agency wasn’t aware of the policy change until reports surfaced in the press, according to an ICE official. The agency doesn’t have a process to accept the medical deferment applications that were previously reviewed by USCIS, the official told the network news organization.
“What we do next is probably sue them,” Marino said. “We’re certainly keeping that option open.”
Research contact: @ABC