U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent letters informing migrants who are battling serious medical conditions that they are no longer allowed to stay in the United States to receive treatment, The Associated Press reports. Effective August 7, the Trump administration eliminated a special protection that allowed immigrants of undocumented status to avoid deportation while they or members of their family sought medical care.
These notices, primarily sent to migrants in Massachusetts, California and North Carolina, order people who applied for the special medical protection “to leave the country within 33 days or face deportation, which can hurt future visa or immigration requests,” according to The AP. This means that people who are fighting illnesses like cancer, HIV and epilepsy must return to countries where they cannot access life-saving care.
Anthony Marino, head of immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents the many of the impact families in Boston, spoke to The AP about the change. “Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care—to pull them from a hospital bed—knowing that it will cost them their lives?” he asked.
The special exemption didn’t offer a path to citizenship, but it allowed people in need of medical care to seek government-assisted health benefits, and it also allowed parents to legally seek work in the U.S. while their children were being treated. The change affects all pending applications for the special medical exemption, including “those seeking a renewal of the two-year authorization and those applying for the first time,” The AP reports. “The only exception is for military members and their families.”
“This is a new low,” Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told the news outlet. “Donald Trump is literally deporting kids with cancer.”