Immigrant families scored a major victory late last month when they forced the Trump administration to backtrack on a barbaric decision ending deportation relief for people undergoing medical treatment. The program, officials said, would continue. But legislators are saying these families and their attorneys are still being kept in the dark.
“None of their clients have received formal approval of their medical deferred action claim since the administration announced it was reinstating this program,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said during a roundtable event with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts this week. That includes the family of 16-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, who has been undergoing treatment for cystic fibrosis for three years now. While his parents were able to meet with Pressley and Sen. Ed Markey at the Wednesday roundtable, the teen could not: He’d been hospitalized due to a lung infection.
“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not respond to questions about the reinstatement of the program,” CommonWealth magazine reported. A spokesperson lazily “referred to a weeks-old statement that said the agency would resume consideration of applications under the program ‘on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, except as otherwise required by an applicable statute, regulation, or court order.’” The repetition of that statement with no further action does nothing to calm the fears of families who are depending on medical treatment in the U.S. to survive.
Serena Badia, another child the administration has targeted for deportation, needs a resolution to her case. “Badia, originally from Spain, has doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital rebuilding her pulmonary artery after three failed surgeries in Spain. She was originally told she had congenital heart disease, and would not live past 12 years of age.” She’s now 14 and has survived five heart surgeries. Her mom Conchita said the family was relieved when it heard the news that the program was being reinstated, but, like the Sanchez family, it’s heard nothing further.
During a congressional hearing on the administration’s action last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez apologized to Jonathan and others facing the loss of their protections “for the dehumanizing policies” that the administration is pursuing, “that are frankly targeting you and targeting many people in the United States. … We’re at a moral crossroads … we’re fighting for a better country that we can be proud of when it comes to how we treat all people, and understanding the circumstances that they’re coming from.”
“My patients are living with this uncertainty,” said Dr. Sarah Kimball of the Boston Medical Center. Local advocacy group Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition tweeted, “For the immigrants involved, medical deferred action is literally a life-or-death issue. The federal government needs to treat it accordingly.”