On August 7, 2019 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped accepting and adjudicating requests for non-military “deferred action,” a form of temporary relief from deportation for vulnerable immigrants often facing life-threatening circumstances. This is a cruel change in policy that will undoubtedly lead to untimely deaths. I’d like to tell you about three families that have benefited from Deferred Action – whose futures are now up in the air. Names have been changed.

Michael, a 15-year-old US Citizen suffers from severe disabilities and requires constant medical care and attention. He has been diagnosed with perinatal anoxic-ischemic brain injury, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, constipation, renal osteodystrophy, jejunostomy present, hypertensive disorder, chronic kidney disease stage 3, and allergic rhinitis. Michael is now 14 years old. He is confined to a wheelchair designed for his needs with straps across his body to keep him positioned upright. He cannot speak, move his body, or eat on his own. His feeding tube provides him with his daily medication and the nutrition he needs to survive through an ongoing supply of Pediasure and water. The feeding bag to which the tube is attached must be re-filled every four hours with the established formula. Michael’s parents both entered the United States without inspection and rely on their Deferred Action status to protect them from deportation, to work to support their family and pay for Michael’s treatment, and to obtain driver’s licenses to transport their family safely.

Ruby, a ten-year-old US citizen, began having seizures approximately two months after she was born. When she was two years old, a device was implanted in her heart, enabling her blood to flow more freely. Despite this procedure, her seizures persisted. As Ruby grew in age, significant developmental delays became apparent. By the age of three, her speech remained limited to a few single words and attempts to potty-train went unfulfilled. Today, she suffers from incontinence and is incapable of going to the toilet on her own. Ruby cannot she put words together to form phrases or complete sentences. Her vocabulary consists of ten words, but it could expand with the right treatment and practice. A medical evaluation, conducted prior to Ruby’s enrollment in kindergarten, revealed that she had cerebral palsy and possible hearing loss in addition to her seizure disorder and developmental delays. In the fall of 2015, Ruby was formally diagnosed with generalized convulsive epilepsy, and a psychological evaluation additionally revealed that she suffers from autism. Ruby’s mother entered the US unlawfully and is a single mother. She has no other family or resources available to her in the United States.

Amir was born in the US on May 28, 2011, approximately thirty-one weeks premature. A few days after he was born, he was diagnosed with Tracheoesophageal Fistula, a life-threatening condition having to do with an improper connection of the trachea and the esophagus. Amir underwent emergency surgery after his birth to repair this defect. After this surgery, doctors discovered that he also was born with Pulmonary Atresia with Ventricular Septal Defect. This meant that Amir had a hole in his heart and would require open heart surgery. He was too little to undergo open heart surgery at that time, however, so he was placed in the neonatal intensive-care unit for the first three months of his life. He has had several open-heart surgeries and though his condition has stabilized, he will require specialized treatment for the rest of his life. Amir parents both entered the United States lawfully and had no desire to stay in the United States until their son was born with these conditions. There are no facilities in their home country that could provide the quality of treatment that he needs. Deferred Action allows Amir father to work to pay for his son’s medical needs.

Does this make you angry? Do you feel badly for these US citizen children and their families? If you do, I encourage you to contact your elected representatives and tell them that USCIS cannot stop adjudicating and approving deserving deferred action cases. AILA has made it easy – complete this call for advocacy online and make your voice heard.

– Tracie