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“Can This Administration Sink Any Lower Than Threatening to Deport Kids with Cancer?” – Outrage over Trump Decision to End All Non-Military Deferred Action

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The same Trump administration that is seeking to end the best-known deferred action program – DACA for Dreamers – has quietly announced the termination of all other types of non-military deferred action requests processed by USCIS. Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion that says the U.S. does not intend to deport someone, usually because it has been determined there is no public interest served in doing so, often due to a humanitarian issue such as a child who requires medical care unavailable in other countries.

As Politico’s Ted Hesson wrote yesterday, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has stopped consideration of ‘deferred action’ requests for all non-military applicants, the agency confirmed today … The American Immigration Lawyers Association told its members in a bulletin Friday that USCIS had ended deferred action for non-military applicants on Aug. 7 without informing the public.”

Despite the quiet way the Trump administration announced the news, the implications are massive on people’s lives and the outcry in response has been loud. Yesterday, a host of Boston-area medical professionals and immigration advocates spoke out in response, highlighting the real families and childrens’ lives put at unnecessary risk as a result:

Michael Levenson in the Boston Globe,‘Our government has issued them a death sentence’: Children receiving treatment at Boston hospitals face deportation”:

Severely ill immigrants, including children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other grave conditions, are facing deportation under a change in Trump administration policy that immigration advocates are calling cruel and inhumane. 

… The program granted stays of deportation in two-year increments and didn’t promise immigrants a future in the United States, just access to care in a time of need, said Dr. Sarah L. Kimball, who works in the Immigrant and Refugee Health Program at Boston Medical Center.

…Shonell Norville, a 37-year-old from Guyana, said she and her 7-year-old son, Joaquim, are facing deportation when their medical deferred action expires in March. They came on a tourist visa in August 2016 to visit Joaquim’s grandparents, who are US citizens, and were visiting Franklin Park Zoo when Joaquim fell ill and was diagnosed with epilepsy, Shonell Norville said. Since then, Joaquim has had major problems. His lungs collapsed when he had a seizure, requiring doctors to perform a tracheotomy. He also developed an infection in his colon, requiring the removal of his large intestine and the use of a colostomy bag. 

Joaquim currently receives regular care at Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital to control his seizures, and Shonell Norville said she fears for his life if he is sent back to Guyana, one of South America’s poorest countries. ‘I tell people, I feel like I’m signing my son’s death warrant,’ she said, adding that she fought to stay in Boston ‘to save him — now, just to be pushed out. How do you comprehend that?’

Mariela Sanchez, a Honduran who lives in Dorchester, said she fears for her son, Jonathan, who is 16 and was born with cystic fibrosis. They came to Boston in 2016 so he could be treated at Boston Children’s Hospital after Jonathan’s older sister died of cystic fibrosis in Honduras, she said. Since then, Jonathan has received regular physical therapy and intravenous antibiotics at Children’s. ‘He would die without a doctor, without help, without medicine,’ Mariela Sanchez said. ‘Our country is not in any condition to help him.’

Shannon Dooling wrote for Boston NPR affiliate WBUR: 

Anthony Marino, director of legal services for the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), explained that up until now, federal immigration officials would routinely permit eligible sick people to stay in the country under this program. 

… Marino added many of the affected clients at the center are families whose children are battling cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy.

Steph Solis reported for Mass Live:

There was no announcement other than the letters giving patients 33 days to leave the country. Many of those letters arrived in patients’ mailboxes halfway through that grace period, said Mahsa Khanbabai, New England Chair for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

‘Our government should focus its limited resources on truly dangerous people, not the most vulnerable,’ said Khanbabai, who said one of her clients who was hospitalized for mental health treatment received a letter.

And in a blistering commentary putting the news in the larger context of the Trump administration’s relentless effort to keep out and kick out immigrants, a Boston Globe editorial titled, “Trump’s latest move is another cruel blow to immigrants,” notes:

Step by malicious step, the Trump administration is turning the American immigration system into an apparatus of appalling, intentional cruelty.

The latest case in point is a relatively small program known as ‘medical deferred action,’ in which immigrants without legal status who are suffering from serious medical conditions are granted a reprieve from deportation so that they can have access to much-needed medical treatment in the United States.

Trump halted the program this month, threatening to deport these patients, including children with leukemia, muscular dystrophy, or cystic fibrosis. The program’s termination means suspending or interrupting medical care, which in some instances is virtually a death sentence.

… These families are now facing an impossible choice: Recede into the shadows, lose their work permits, and live under the threat of deportation; or go back to their home country and take their chances on receiving adequate care there.

… The outrages now come with such regularity that each tends to distract from the last. But it’s important to protest not just these changes, but also their overriding intent: to remove all vestiges of compassion from the immigration system and make life as miserable as possible for immigrant families. Can this administration sink any lower than threatening to deport kids with cancer?

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice, “We’re well past the, ‘have you no sense of decency, sir?’ moment when it comes to the Trump administration and their treatment of immigrants. Their efforts to kill deferred action are not only threatening the futures of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers with DACA, but are set to literally deport sick children with life-threatening medical conditions to their death sentences. Trump and his team are rewriting broad swaths of immigration policies that have been in place for years or decades without the input of Congress or the American people. Ending deferred action is another shockingly cruel example of the larger way this administration is treating immigrants and refugees and Americans and elected officials of both parties should speak out in revulsion.”