By Philip Marcelo
Associated Press, August 26, 2019
The Trump administration has eliminated a protection that lets immigrants remain in the country and avoid deportation while they or their relatives receive life-saving medical treatments or endure other hardships, immigration officials said in letters issued to families this month.
Critics denounced the decision as a cruel change that could force desperate migrants to accept lesser treatment in their poverty-stricken homelands.
In Boston alone, the decision could affect about 20 families with children fighting cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and other serious conditions, said Anthony Marino, head of immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents the families.
Advocates say similar letters from Citizenship and Immigration Services have been issued to immigrants in California, North Carolina and elsewhere.
“Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care — to pull them from a hospital bed — knowing that it will cost them their lives?” Marino said.
“This is a new low,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said. “Donald Trump is literally deporting kids with cancer.”
A Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman said the policy change was effective Aug. 7.
It affects all pending requests, including from those seeking a renewal of the two-year authorization and those applying for the first time. The only exception is for military members and their families.
Going forward, applicants will be able to seek deportation deferrals from a different agency, Immigration Customs and Enforcement, according to the spokeswoman.
Letters sent to Boston-area families last week and reviewed by The Associated Press, however, do not mention that option. They simply order applicants to leave the country within 33 days or face deportation, which can hurt future visa or immigration requests.
Without the discretionary deferrals, immigrant families facing serious health issues have few other options for relief, medical experts in Boston argued Monday.
The deferrals, they added, do not provide families a pathway to citizenship, though they can qualify for government-funded health benefits and receive legal permission to work while their children receive medical treatment.
“They’re not coming for a free ride. They’re coming to save their children,” said Joe Chabot, a director at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “It’s bewildering.”
By Don McCanne, M.D.
We can be proud of an America that welcomes those with major health care needs, especially children, who are not able to obtain their essential and often lifesaving medical treatments in their home countries. Except let’s dispense with pride since apparently we do not have that America anymore.
Under a well designed, single payer Medicare for All program, most of us believe that all residents, regardless of immigration status, should have the health care that they need. Even now, before the enactment and implementation of such a program, surely we can provide this assistance that they cannot get at home. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate role for government? Apparently our current government stewards think not.
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