A Massachusetts patient, caregiver, and advocate were among those testifying last Wednesday before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the Trump Administration’s termination of the deferred action program, which allows immigrants to receive medical care without the fear of deportation.
In August, the administration announced that it would no longer accept from immigrants renewals of their deferred action applications. Under intense criticism, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services backtracked on the action and said it would reconsider. But there has not been any definitive announcement on how affected patients and families should proceed.
Among those testifying on Wednesday was Jonathan Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Honduras who has been receiving care for his cystic fibrosis at Boston Children’s Hospital. He stated clearly that if he is forced to go back to Honduras for care available in that country, he will die. “It is incredibly unfair to kick out kids who are in hospitals or at home getting treatment to save their lives,” he told the committee.
Also testifying was Dr. Fiona S. Danaher, a pediatrician and co-chair of the Immigrant Health Coalition at Massachusetts General Hospital. She told committee members, “Perhaps no intervention is more crucial to minimize the suffering of a severely ill child than maintaining the presence of a loving family member at the bedside. Terminating the medical deferred action program would leave some medically complex US citizen children struggling not only with the physical burden of their disease, but with the emotional trauma of forced separation from their immigrant parents. No child can be expected to heal under such circumstances. This is not just bad medicine; it is unconscionably inhumane.”
Anthony Marino, director of Immigration Legal Services at the Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center, also testified.
U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of the committee, was especially critical of the Trump Administration’s action, calling it “appalling.”
Representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services who testified did not offer many details on the future of the program, citing the lawsuits that had been filed against the government challenging deferred action’s termination.