Foreign nationals who need specialized medical care sometimes seek treatment in the United States, but these individuals sometimes receive orders for removal or need care beyond the time limits of their visas. According to U.S. immigration law, immigrants living in Louisiana and elsewhere who have serious medical conditions can apply for deferrals. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service — USCIS — used to be the agency that considered the deferrals. Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be in charge of making those decisions.
Immigrants who applied to the medical deferred action program were not given any notice that the policy was changing. Many were surprised to receive denial letters, even after providing documentation regarding their medical conditions. To qualify for the medical deferred action program, a person must prove that he or she has an extreme medical need. If approved, people can stay in the U.S. for an additional two years. Most of the people who apply to this program are those who entered with visas or other forms of permitted statuses.
It is not clear why the policy was changed. However, it appears that ICE is issuing denials more frequently than USCIS. Many of the recently denied deferrals were for families who have children receiving care for illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, HIV and more. According to one expert, the denials seem to be form letters without much relevance to specific cases. Individuals were also given 33 days to leave the country.
It may feel like U.S. immigration law is constantly changing. This can be extremely frustrating for Louisiana immigrants who need to apply for time-sensitive programs, such as medical deferred action. For most people in this situation, speaking with qualified attorneys can help them better understand their options.