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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION RESUMES “MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION” PROGRAM

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

Given the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration, it has been the rare case when there is positive news coming from the Trump administration on an issue affecting immigrants.  Since Donald Trump became President, it seems that the only good news for immigrants is when a Federal court steps up to block a policy of the Trump administration. There are also very few instances of the Trump administration reversing course and changing its mind about an anti-immigration policy.  However, as an exception to the above, there is a favorable development for immigrants, as the Trump administration in fact has reversed course and changed its mind and resumed the “medical deferred action” program.

The “medical deferred action” program allows immigrants to remain in the United States for two-year periods if they can prove extreme medical need.  Many of the immigrants covered by the “medical deferred action” program came to the United States through a visa or other permitted status for a period of time and are requesting to stay beyond this period of time to receive necessary medical treatment.  While no formal public announcement was made in advance by any government agency of the Trump administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August began sending letters to immigrants under the “medical deferred action” program, advising them that USCIS will no longer defer their deportations based on their medical conditions.

However, on September 19, USCIS announced that it was resuming the “medical deferred action” program.  As described by a USCIS spokesperson, “At the direction of Acting Secretary McAleenan, USCIS is resuming its consideration of non-military deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, except as otherwise required by an applicable statute, regulation, or court order”.

It is believed that this change from USCIS was due to public backlash in response to the apparent elimination of the “medical deferred action” program based on the above-described letters sent by USCIS in August.  This public backlash only increased following a September 11, 2019 emergency hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, at which Trump administration officials refused to answer questions about this apparent elimination of the “medical deferred action” program.  

In response to the announced resumption of the “medical deferred action” program, Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D. Md.), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, stated, “If today’s statement is accurate, it appears that the Trump Administration is reversing its inhumane and disastrous decision to deport critically ill children and their families who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the United States.  It should not take an emergency hearing by Congress – and threats for more – to force the Trump Administration to do the right thing. Because of the secrecy and obstruction surrounding this policy, we will be taking additional steps to verify that these children and their families do not need to live in fear and uncertainty. Our Committee will continue to seek answers about who was responsible for this cruel policy in the first place. I want to thank Chairman Raskin, Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Mark DeSaulnier, and the countless others who have brought attention to this issue”.

The change in policy by the Trump administration on the issue of the “medical deferred action” program exemplifies how action (in this case, public backlash and an emergency hearing of a House of Representatives committee) can prevent the permanent adoption of a policy that is materially adverse to immigrants.  Litigation (in terms of opposing an issued governmental policy or appealing an unfavorable initial court decision) is a form of action that can prevent the permanent adoption of a policy that is materially adverse to immigrants. When the Trump administration issues a negative policy toward immigrants, immigrants should not despair; instead, they should consider litigation action.  To be successful in litigation, it is critically important that the immigrant obtains representation from a competent law firm, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has had years of experience and success in immigration litigation matters. If you need help on any immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for support.