April 23, 2020

Senators Warren, Markey, and Booker and Rep. Pressley Demand Answers from Trump Administration about Non-Military Deferred Action During Coronavirus Emergency

Administration reversed decision to halt consideration of cases last fall but has since denied numerous urgent requests, insists detailed information on cases is not available

Text of Letter (PDF)


Washington, DC  – Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) today demanded that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provide answers about whether it is granting requests from immigrants with major medical illness, including children, and their families seeking to remain in the United States while receiving lifesaving treatment.


In August 2019, the lawmakers were joined by dozens of their colleagues on a letter to USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about the decision to halt consideration of non-military deferred action requests. Public backlash forced the Administration to abruptly reverse course on its decision last fall, but since then, there have been numerous reports – including one of a two-year-old boy with cancer – of denied deferred action requests. In a letter sent today, the lawmakers called on USCIS to immediately provide information on the current status of requests and allow applicants to apply for deferred action by email in light of the urgent nature of the requests. The lawmakers also expressed frustration with the lack of answers from USCIS after requesting similar information last fall. USCIS insists that it is “unable to provide [the] formal data” the lawmakers requested because “tracking and data are not in place for non-military deferred action.”   


“We fear the USCIS has renewed consideration of medical deferred requests in name only,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to USCIS Senior Official Kenneth Cuccinelli. “Although USCIS has approved a handful of applications, it has denied or left pending indefinitely many others – both first-time requests and renewals. As the seriousness of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic deepens, medical deferred action is as important as ever. The United States cannot in good conscience force sick or vulnerable individuals to travel, which also increases their risk.”


Senator Warren has been a champion for immigrants, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • She has cosponsored the Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together (FIRST) Act, introduced by Senator Booker and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), to move immigrants out of detention and halt immigration enforcement against individuals not deemed a significant public safety risk during the pandemic. 

  • In early March, she led a letter urging the Trump Administration to suspend all immigration enforcement actions in and around hospitals and other medical facilities. 

  • She recently joined her colleagues in a letter to the DHS, ICE, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pushing for the release of vulnerable and low-risk detained persons from DHS custody as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. She and her colleagues previously wrote to DHS, ICE, and CBP asking about their plans to prepare for the possible spread of COVID-19 within DHS facilities. 

  • She joined Senator Durbin in urging President Trump to automatically extend work authorizations for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status during the pandemic. 

  • On March 11, she sent a letter with Senator Markey raising concerns about the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) handling of COVID-19 prevention efforts in the immigration courts. Senator Warren later urged DOJ to close all immigration courts to prevent the spread of the virus. 

  • She joined a bicameral group of lawmakers to introduce the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act that would help ensure that all communities are able to access COVID-19 testing and treatment, and other relief services provided in coronavirus relief legislation.

  • She has also introduced the Prioritizing Pandemic Prevention Act (S. 3510), legislation to defund the border wall and direct those funds to combating COVID-19.