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The Trump administration has announced it will now not deport all the immigrants protected by a humanitarian program it suddenly ended last month with no public notice. Instead, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a press release Monday that it will reopen all cases that were pending on August 7, when the blanket denial of "medical deferment action" applications went into effect. Mind you, that doesn't mean the government is necessarily reversing its policy -- instead, this appears to be an effort to partly calm the shitstorm of publicity USCIS invited when news outlets got wind of the decision to start deporting sick people -- many of them children -- and sending them back to countries where many would die. Let's try not to applaud too loudly here.

For years, the "medical deferred action" program allowed a small number of immigrants and their families -- USCIS says it processes about a thousand applications a year, but denies a "majority" -- to stay in the US to continue medical treatment. But in Trump World, there is no room for humanitarianism, which is why Stephen Miller has taken steps to eliminate admission of refugees, and there's now no "My kid has cancer" in "immigration." Even in its announcement that it would reconsider the applications that it suddenly denied last month, USCIS was clear that sick immigrants really should just hurry up and die, because America has no use for them:


On August 7, USCIS stopped its consideration of deferred action for non-military requestors. At that time, USCIS sent out letters informing those who had requested deferred action that USCIS was no longer entertaining such requests. Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer the deportation of an individual who is illegally present in the United States as an act of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Translation: We are not obligated to take foreigners' worthless lives into account as we make America great again. Letting people die is a matter of "discretion."

Update/Clarification: also worth noting the slippery use of "illegally present in the United States" here: Under the deferred action program, these folks were allowed to not worry about being deported after the visas under which they originally entered expired. But under the strictest sense of the law, deferred action doesn't give them legal status like a green card would. Like DACA, it's a decision not to take action against them because of their status. Also, DACA recipients are not affected by this policy.

The press release noted that the people who were sent letters telling them to leave the US within 33 days or face deportation "did not have removal orders pending, and have not been targeted for deportation." At least not yet, although the letters stated they would be, regardless of their medical condition. And yes, USCIS is still proud of the prominent "NO REGERTS" tattoo on its forehead:

While limiting USCIS' role in deferred action is appropriate, USCIS will complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.

Translation: No new applications will be accepted, probably, or at least the agency is keeping its options open. Maybe it can still get ICE to take over the application process, we'll see. The New York Times asked for clarification from USCIS, and got nearly nothing:

An agency official said the agency "is taking immediate corrective action to reopen previously pending cases for consideration."

"Whether a very limited version of deferred action will continue forward at U.S.C.I.S. is still under review. More information will be forthcoming," said the official, who only agreed to speak on background.

The possible reprieve, limited though it may be, was welcomed by some of the people who had received letters telling them they can't keep living here, so they should please go die elsewhere. Among them was Isabel Bueso, who was invited to come to California by researchers at UC-San Francisco's Benioff Children's Hospital when she was seven years old. Now 24, a college graduate, and a disability activist, Bueso was just one of the many people who is now alive because her participation in the study led to a treatment for her rare genetic disorder. She's relieved, to say the least.

Without the drug, Ms. Bueso and others with the genetic disorder were unlikely to live to adulthood. Her doctor, Paul Harmatz, had said that leaving the United States would lead her to quickly fall ill and die.

On hearing that she had a chance to stay in California, rather than return to Guatemala, where the drug is not available and she cannot receive the required medical care, Ms. Bueso said, "This is amazing. This is great news to wake up to."

After news of her situation went viral, Bueso was invited to testify to Congress about the administration's elimination of medical deferred action. She plans to ask Congress to pass permanent relief for immigrants with medical needs. Her attorney, Martin Lawler, isn't about to rest easy, because this is the goddamned Trump administration.

It's unclear whether people will be granted appropriate extensions or whether people like Isabel will always be living on the knife's edge, worried that the next extension will not be granted when they are in the middle of receiving medical treatment for their serious diseases.

CBS News also reports that over 100 congressional Democrats have written to Homeland Security to ask that applications for medical deferred action not be transferred to ICE as USCIS wants to do, because what the fuck, Goddamned ICE?

"Requiring that prospective applicants request this humanitarian relief by applying to an immigration enforcement agency that detains and deports hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, will deter many vulnerable children and families from coming forward and seeking life-saving protection," the lawmakers wrote.

And somewhere in a bunker beneath the White House, Stephen Miller no doubt chuckled and thought, Gosh, that would sure be a shame if people made such decisions, now wouldn't it?

[CBS News / NYT / USCIS / Wonkette photoshoop based on photos by US CBP and US Air Force]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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