TRENTON – Standing up for the health of New Jersey’s immigrant communities, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today sent a letter to the U.S. government calling on officials to protect the longstanding practice of approving requests for medical deferred action, the process by which the federal government allows individuals to remain in the United States in order to receive necessary medical care not available in their home countries.
For years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processed requests for medical deferred action. Many of those who currently receive medical deferred action, including children, suffer from life-threatening conditions. A few weeks ago, however, both recipients and applicants for medical deferred action began receiving letters that stated USCIS no longer administers the program. USCIS’s letter warned that recipients had 33 days to leave the country before potentially facing removal proceedings.
After public outrage over the apparent suspension of all medical deferred action, USCIS announced on September 2 that it would continue to process medical deferred action requests—but only for individuals who had a request pending as of August 7, 2019. USCIS did not commit to maintaining this program for any future applicants, and instead stated that it still considered limiting the program “appropriate.”
“For years, under Administrations from across the political spectrum, the United States has recognized that individuals and children facing life threatening illnesses deserve to remain here while they receive necessary medical care,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By putting that promise in doubt, the Administration’s latest action puts the health and safety of New Jersey immigrants – and immigrants across the country – at risk. We’re demanding answers, and we won’t stop until we get them.”
In a multi-state letter today to both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew T. Albence and USCIS Acting Director Kenneth Cuccinelli, Attorney General Grewal and 19 other Attorneys General demanded more information regarding the status of the medical deferred action program to avoid “widespread fear, panic and trauma for residents in our states.”
(This is of particular concern because USCIS previously stated that ICE would process medical deferred action requests in the future, but ICE officials have disclosed no plan to do so. The latest announcements suggest a de facto suspension of the medical deferred action program for any requests made after August 7.)
Today’s multi-state letter asserts that the participating states “are committed to ensuring the provision of safe, appropriate healthcare to all of our residents” and describes potential suspension of medical deferred action as “a grave threat” to foreign nationals and their dependent children living in the states.
The letter calls for answers by September 10 as to “(1) whether USCIS has terminated all consideration of deferred action for non-military requests submitted after August 7, 2019; (2) how foreign nationals in our States suffering from severe medical conditions can request deferred action moving forward; (3) whether any criteria and processes related to deferred actions for serious medical conditions have or will change under new policies or procedures; and (4) if new policies or procedures will change deferred action for serious medical conditions, how will the criteria or processes will change.”
In addition to Attorney General Grewal, today’s letter was signed by the Attorneys General of New York, Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.