Attorney General Balderas Joins Coalition Demanding Answers from Trump Administration Over Changes to Program that Provides Immigrants with Lifesaving Medical Care

September 4, 2019

Contact: Malaquias Rael (505) 220-2846

Albuquerque, NM – Attorney General Hector Balderas, joining a coalition of 20 attorneys general
led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura
Healey, today called on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide immediate answers regarding the status and
oversight of the federal government’s medical deferred action program. For years, medical
deferred action has allowed immigrants to apply to remain in the United States if they are in
extreme medical need. USCIS has long overseen and managed this program, but last week,
without warning, USCIS informed applicants in denial letters that the agency is no longer
overseeing the program. The Trump Administration has since failed to issue any formal directive
or guidance on the new process for reviewing medical deferred action requests, including what
federal agency is overseeing the program, and the coalition is demanding answers.

“Individuals fighting for their life deserve compassionate healthcare,” said Attorney General
Balderas. “America can be a nation of laws and compassionate acts of kindness.”
The medical deferred action program was created to allow immigrants to apply for an extended
stay in the United States in the event of extreme medical need. USCIS has routinely considered
and granted requests by foreign nationals for deferred action for decades, including for patients
who are receiving lifesaving care in the U.S. and for the parents of such patients. These grants of
deferred action have prevented the deportation of gravely ill children and adults to countries where
their lives would be in danger due to lack of quality medical care. Deferred action has also given
patients access to health insurance and allowed parents of sick children to receive work
authorizations that they need to pay their children’s medical bills and support their families.

USCIS recently informed several foreign nationals who made initial requests for medical deferred
action or requests for renewal of such deferred action that they were “no longer consider
deferred action requests except . . . for certain military members, enlistees, and their families.”
The denial letters also informed applicants that they were required to leave the country 33 days
from the date of the denial or risk deportation. After public outrage over the apparent suspension
of all medical deferred action, USCIS announced on September 2, 2019 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 has provided no official explanation of its decision to suspend consideration of medical
deferred action requests moving forward. Moreover, while some reports have indicated that ICE
will review requests for deferred action related to medical conditions, ICE has provided no
indication—much less detailed information—of plans to consider such requests or of how
individuals who have been denied deferred action by USCIS can request such relief from ICE. As
a result, sick patients and their families are left afraid, traumatized, and uncertain of their future
health and well-being.
In the letter, the attorneys general are requesting answers to the following questions: (1) whether
or not USCIS has terminated all consideration of deferred action for non-military-affiliated
individuals submitted after August 7, 2019; (2) how foreign nationals currently located in the
coalition states who are suffering from severe medical conditions can request deferred action
moving forward; (3) whether and how 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 the criteria
or processes may change.

Joining Attorney General Balderas, New York Attorney General James, and Massachusetts
Attorney General Healey in signing the letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada,
New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.