‘It’s Scarier Than Having A Surgery’: A Year Later, Uncertainty Around Medical Deferrals Remains

Immigration Law

Originally published by WBUR.org

It’s been a year since federal immigration authorities re-started what’s known as medical deferred action after quietly trying to eliminate it without any public notice.

Medical deferrals allow severely ill people who don’t have legal status in the U.S. — and who can’t access adequate health care in their home countries — to temporarily stay here while receiving what’s often life-saving treatment.

But, attorneys in Boston and throughout the Northeast worry the humanitarian policy is once again under silent attack.

‘The Secrecy Is The Problem’

The Trump administration’s efforts last year to quietly phase out medical deferrals created a national uproar.

Several Boston residents seeking treatment for things like cystic fibrosis and cancer faced possible deportation. Emergency Congressional hearings were called and, a month later, when federal immigration authorities agreed to reopen the process, immigration attorneys, like Boston-based Annelise Araujo, were cautiously optimistic.

But a year later, Araujo says that optimism has faded.

“We have no knowledge as to why these cases are being denied and the secrecy is the problem.”

Araujo says until now, she’s never had a request for medical deferred action denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — the agency processing these requests.

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