BOSTON (AP) — The Trump administration has eliminated a protection that lets immigrants remain in the country and avoid deportation while they or their relatives receive life-saving medical treatments or endure other hardships, immigration officials said in letters issued to families this month.
Critics denounced the decision as a cruel change that could force desperate migrants to accept lesser treatment in their poverty-stricken homelands.
Mariela Sanchez, a native of Honduras who recently applied for the special exemption, said a denial would amount to a death sentence for her 16-year-old son, Jonathan, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. They are among many families who settled in Boston to seek care at some of the nation’s top hospitals.
Sanchez, who arrived in the U.S. with her family in 2016, said she lost a daughter to the same disease years ago after doctors in her home country failed to diagnose it.
The disease, which is hereditary, affects the lungs and digestive system and has no cure.
“He would be dead,” if the family had remained in Honduras, she said of her son. “I have panic attacks over this every day.”
In Boston alone, the decision could affect about 20 families with children fighting cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and other serious conditions, said Anthony Marino, head of immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents the families.
Advocates say similar letters from Citizenship and Immigration Services have been issued to immigrants in California, North Carolina and elsewhere.
“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?” Marino said.
“This is a new low,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said. “Donald Trump is literally deporting kids with cancer.”
A Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman said the policy change was effective Aug. 7.
It affects all pending requests, including from those seeking a renewal of the two-year authorization and those applying for the first time. The only exception is for military members and their families.
The special status is similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that then-President Barack Obama created in 2012 to shield immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation — another policy the administration has been trying to dismantle.
By PHilip Marcelo for APNEWS.COM
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