August 30, 2019

Lawmakers Lead Bicameral Investigation into the Elimination of Medical Deferred Action

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - Today, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), along with Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Immigration and Citizenship Subcommitee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), and other lawmakers, penned a letter to Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Acting U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli, and Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matthew T. Albence demanding answers on USCIS's decision to end consideration of non-military deferred action requests, including medical deferred action. In the letter, the lawmakers called on the agencies to reverse this decision and turn over any documents discussing the policy change by September 13, 2019.

"This decision will needlessly endanger vulnerable children and families nationwide seeking medical deferments for individuals receiving life-saving treatment for serious illnesses," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Medical deferred action provides temporary relief from deportation for immigrants, and their families, with life-threatening health conditions that cannot be properly treated if they were deported. Earlier this month, applicants for medical deferred action -- including several families receiving medical treatment at Massachusetts hospitals -- began receiving letters from USCIS rejecting their request for deportation deferral and notifying them that they have 33 days to depart the country or risk deportation. USCIS did not issue a public announcement of the medical deferred action policy change nor did the agency provide an opportunity for public comment. According to news reports, USCIS is also forcing applicants to apply for medical deferred action through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) even though ICE claims that they do not have any existing protocols that will allow them to process medical deferred action applications.

"In recent years, USCIS has repeatedly implemented far-reaching new measures without adequate notice or clear explanation," the lawmakers continued. "This policy change is unfair to families who followed longstanding USCIS procedures for requesting deferred action, only to discover in a denial letter that those policies have changed.  Additionally, it is extremely troubling that USCIS applied this policy retroactively, stunning families who requested protection long before the policy took effect."

Joining the lawmakers in sending the letter are Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and 106 of their House colleagues.