Politics

Trump Reverses Course, Will Allow Medical Deferments For Deportations

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

The Trump administration announced it is backtracking on its decision to eliminate deportation deferments for those receiving life-saving treatment in the U.S.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency under the Department of Homeland Security that manages legal immigration, announced Monday that it will “reopen non-military deferred action cases that were pending on August 7,” which notably include those with severe medical problems.

“While limiting USCIS’ role in deferred action is appropriate, USCIS will complete the caseload that was pending on August 7,” a statement from the agency read Monday. “As USCIS’ deferred action caseload is reduced, the career employees who decide such cases will be more available to address other types of legal immigration applications on a more efficient basis.”

The agency revealed in late August it would be ending the “medical deferment action” program that allows immigrants to remain in the country if they are receiving life-saving treatment.

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing Aug. 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing Aug. 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The deferred action program allows aliens to avoid deportation for two-year periods if they can prove they, or a family member, are receiving essential medical treatment not necessarily available in their home countries. While the program does not provide lawful immigration status to an alien, and does not excuse periods of unlawful presence in the country, many U.S. migrants with illnesses depend on medical deferment to remain in the U.S. as they receive treatment.

USCIS began sending letters to those who had asked for their deferment to be renewed, telling them the agency was longer honoring such requests and that they had 33 days to leave the U.S. or face deportation.

The change was met with swift pushback from Democrats and immigrant-rights activists.

“The Trump Admin’s cruel & inhumane plan to deport people with serious medical conditions must be *fully* reversed,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted Monday. “USCIS must tell the world unequivocally that in our compassionate America, the seriously ill who request humanitarian relief will never be targeted for deportation.” (RELATED: White House Approves Rule That Penalizes Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits)

While USCIS has announced a reversal and will reconsider all applications that were submitted as of Aug. 7, it is still suggesting it may limit its role in the program.

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