December 9, 2019, 22:00

Families shielded from deportations due to medical issues told to leave US in 33 days

Families shielded from deportations due to medical issues told to leave US in 33 days

The Trump administration has started denying pleas by non-citizens who are trying to extend their time in the U.S. in order to treat severe medical conditions.

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Letters issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and obtained by ABC News, tell people applying for medical relief that agency offices, “no longer consider deferred action requests,” except for members of the military.

A 16-year-old with cystic fibrosis, a 13-year-old with muscular dystrophy and a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy are a few of the children whose families received letters denying their applications.

(MORE: ICE lets cameras into facility where Trump admin plans long-term family detention)

They’re represented by Anthony Marino, an immigration lawyer with the Irish International Immigrant Center. He said the administration has effectively ended the program that ensures his clients have access to critical medical services.

“People are terrified and confused,” Marino told ABC News. “I don’t know how people react to their government telling them to disconnect from lifesaving health care.”

(MORE: Trump administration to lift limit on how long migrant kids can be detained)

John Moore/Getty Images, FILE

Immigrants prepare to become American citizens at a naturalization service, Jan. 22, 2018, in Newark, New Jersey.

The letters warn that if they don’t leave the within 33 days, it could make them ineligible to return to the U.S.

“You are not authorized to remain in the United States,” the USCIS field office in Boston wrote in one letter. “If you fail to depart the United States within 33 days of the date of this letter, USCIS may issue you a Notice to Appear and Commence removal proceedings against you with the immigration court.”

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 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 said.

(MORE: Trump administration underestimating impact of new immigration rule, advocates say)

“ICE reviews each case on its own merits and exercises appropriate discretion after reviewing all the facts of each case,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement.

Marino’s clients include a mix of citizens and non-citizens whose families are trying to avoid deportation. For example, one of Marino’s clients is the mother to the 4-year-old who suffers from cerebral palsy. The 4-year-old is a U.S. citizen, but her mother is not.

His clients may be able to pursue other ways to avoid deportation, but their options have been limited.

“What we do next is probably sue them,” Marino said. “We’re certainly keeping that option open.”


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