The Trump administration backpedals on one of its most repugnant immigration policies — but don't celebrate yet

The Trump administration backpedals on one of its most repugnant immigration policies — but don't celebrate yet
Ken Cuccinelli by Gage Skidmore

The Trump administration has partially backed down from a decision ending deportation relief for sick people, following blistering criticism from medical professionals and advocates who said that terminating medical deferred action for immigrants undergoing vital treatment would be a “death sentence” for many.

Families and their advocates were stunned when, without warning, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last month sent them letters informing them their protection from deportation would be ending in 33 days, leaving Maria Isabel Bueso and others to be deported to their deaths. “Neither the drug nor the medical care that she requires is available in Guatemala,” The New York Times reported. “Without the drug, her health is expected to quickly deteriorate.

But on Monday, “faced with criticism,” USCIS announced that requests pending on August 7, when those letters were sent out, would be reopened. “However,” The Times continued, “it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country or whether the program would be continued after current applications are processed.”

Ronnie Millar of the Irish International Immigrant Center said that Massachusetts families that had been informed their deferred action was ending were “relieved that USCIS will reconsider their deferred action applications,” but that “this announcement does little to correct the injustice of ending deferred action and only delays the cruel effects of the government’s decision.”

The only reason why USCIS has moved to end medical deferred action is the agency leader’s fealty to Donald Trump and his mass deportation agenda. Ken Cuccinelli’s job at USCIS is to help facilitate legal immigration, but since being dubiously installed as acting director, has gone on television to defend workplace raids, something that has zero to do with his job.

Among the patients that Cuccinelli has wanted out are 16-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, who has been undergoing cystic fibrosis treatment for three years. During an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, the teen said he would tell Cuccinelli and Trump that “if I cut my treatments, the only thing I’m gonna get is death. The only way I can be alive is by staying in the United States because in my country there’s no treatment for cystic fibrosis.”

The administration receives as many as 1,000 requests for medical deferred action every year, meaning uncertainty will continue for many who didn’t meet the August 7 deadline the administration arbitrarily created. ”Can you tell them what’s going to happen to you if you go back to Honduras?” Ramos continued. “Well,” the boy responded in English, “if I go back to Honduras, I’m gonna die.”

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