House Hearing: Deferred Action Policy Change to Deport Critically Ill Immigrants

On Wednesday, October 30, 2019 the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hearing, “The Administration’s Decision to Deport Critically Ill Children and Their Families,” discussed the actions that lead up to the decision and the policy moving forward. The issue was a policy decision this past summer that would have removed some families that were in the U.S. for medical treatment.  Many of these families included a family member with health conditions so serious that they could only be treated in the United States.

The hearing was in honor of the late Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings whose last official actions was when he issued subpoenas to acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli and Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence to end the policy change and testify before the Committee.

The deferred action policy has been reversed.  Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) stated that the policy change implemented by USCIS was to deny temporary relief from deportation to everyone except cases involving the military.  He labeled it cruel immigration policy that targets children. Acting Director Cuccinelli has been responsible for several policy changes that have impacted immigrant children, including implementing the “public charge” rule. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked Cuccinelli why the prioritization to deport critically ill kids.  He responded that Congress has failed to pass laws dealing with immigrants with a serious illness.

“For many families, this is a life or death issue,” stated Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY). Putting a face to the issue Congresswoman Maloney showed Julia Espinosa and detailed her family’s story.  Her parents who were granted deferred action applied for renewal and they have only three options, to remain in the U.S. illegally and face deportation, leave their child behind, or take her where her illness could kill her.

Congresswoman Maloney asked that if the deferred action policy has been reversed that the language needs to be clearly defined. Cuccinelli stated that [the deferred referral] is not an action, program, or policy. During his testimony, he admitted that if he had to do it over again, he would have made a different decision in some cases. Congresswoman Pressley (D-MA) concluded her time reminding everyone the purpose of the hearing, which she stated is “to not lose sight about the critically ill children and that it is not about the process but people.”

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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