In a move that’s dark for even this administration, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) eliminated a protection that allows severely ill undocumented immigrants and their families to remain in the U.S. while they receive life-saving treatment for conditions like cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and more, the Associated Press reported.
The group said in letters issued to families that nearly 1,000 people who apply to stay in the U.S. while they receive treatment have 33 days to stop the treatment and leave the country or risk facing deportation, according to NBC News. The policy went into effect on August 7, 2019. The policy was first reported in Boston by WBUR-FM on August 26, because the administration did not announce the policy change, according to the public radio station.
“You are not authorized to remain in the United States,” the USCIS field office in Boston wrote in one letter. “If you fail to depart the United States within 33 days of the date of this letter, USCIS may issue you a Notice to Appear and Commence removal proceedings against you with the immigration court.”
“This is a new low for Trump,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) tweeted. “Maybe that is why they were too ashamed to announce this policy change publicly, and instead have been notifying families by handing them denials with instructions to leave the country.”
Apparently, while USCIS sent the letters to immigrants requesting to enroll in the small program known as “medical deferred action,” it is now under the purview of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That process was not mentioned in any of the letters sent to the immigrants. What’s more, an ICE official told ABC News that the agency didn’t even know about the policy change until they read about it in the news — there’s no process in place to accept deferred action applications. USCIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from MTV News, but Paul Prince, an ICE spokesperson said: “ICE has always maintained discretion to determine appropriate actions prior to removal. ICE reviews each case on its own merits and may exercise discretion after examining all the facts involved.”
This comes during the same month that the Trump administration made moves to deny green cards, eliminate limits on how long families can be detained at the border, and stopped providing flu vaccines to immigrants at border detention facilities.