In the News: Alarming Changes to Medical Deferred Action Program
The medical deferred action program is a program which allows immigrants with severe medical conditions like cancer or cystic fibrosis to remain in the United States for two year grace-periods. It was never an easy program to gain protection under, but it has been a life-saver for some thousand immigrants who have needed it.
And while it has not formally ended, new policies have vastly complicated the receipt of this kind of relief because USCIS is no longer processing the applications. ICE is.
USCIS alarmed hundreds of immigrants by sending out letters denying their medical deferred action requests. The letters failed to notify immigrants that ICE now handles these requests.
They threatened immigrants with legal consequences if they did not leave the country in 33 days.
The Trump administration did nothing to announce this change. The media recently got wind of it and investigated.
The change affects all applications, including pending applications and new ones.
This change is alarming for several reasons. First, ICE is tasked with removing immigrants, not with helping them. Second, there have been no announcements pertaining to the procedure ICE wants immigrants to use, which opens the door for them to deny applications on obscure procedural grounds.
This is why some activists have suggested that the real purpose of the shift is to end the program. ICE claims they will, “review each case on its own merits and will exercise appropriate discretion after reviewing all the facts involved.”
This shift doesn’t affect DACA deferrals or other deferred action requests.
Even if you’ve received one of these denial letters, there are still cancellation of removal defenses you can take advantage of. You’ll need an experienced immigration attorney to help.
Getting approval under this program was always difficult. It may even be wiser to switch your focus, attempting to get your status settled under a program that’s a little more stable.
The one thing you don’t want to do is ignore the problem, or panic.
Activists are already fighting the change. 19 states are already suing the administration over this move, and federal judges have certainly blocked many of Trump’s other immigration moves. There is reason for hope.
But it’s important to make sure you’re personally taken care of in the short term while the legal battle plays out in the long term.
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