The Trump administration will make it easier for a small portion of seriously ill illegal immigrants hoping to temporarily remain in the country to have their cases heard.
In a statement, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would reverse course and consider “deferred action” applications that were pending as of Aug. 7 by illegal immigrants hoping to temporarily avoid deportation because of serious medical conditions. Deferred action would delay removal.
USCIS, the agency headed by acting Director Ken Cuccinelli that reviews immigration requests, had mailed letters Aug. 7 to those with medical-related protections saying they would need to reapply with a new government component within the next month. Military members and their families were included.
“Today, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced it will reopen non-military deferred action cases that were pending on August 7. Letters will be sent this week re-opening all cases that were pending on August 7,” USCIS said in a news release posted to its website. “While limiting USCIS’ role in deferred action is appropriate, USCIS will complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.”
Last week, USCIS said the new agency would be U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, causing an uproar because ICE is the agency responsible for deporting illegal immigrants. ICE will consider all requests made after Aug. 7.
USCIS has said ICE was a better agency to handle reviewing these requests because it focuses on law enforcement issues, like deporting undocumented immigrants found to be illegally present, whereas the USCIS handles citizenship issues. One official clarified the program was not being shuttered but that its overseer was being changed.
Approximately 1,000 people apply each year for this type of medical or financial protection, though USCIS said last week the “majority” are not approved, making it difficult to know how many people will be affected by the change. Those who are granted deferred action also have access to Medicaid and can gain permission to legally work while in the country.
The change does not affect the estimated 800,000 people who received protections from deportation since the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created through executive action under former President Barack Obama.
USCIS did not immediately respond to an email asking for additional information.