Families react to reversal on migrant medical care, disability cases


Sirlen Costa, of Brazil, holds her son Samuel, 5, as her niece Danyelle Sales, right, looks on during a news conference, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in Boston. Costa brought her son to the United States seeking treatment for his short bowel syndrome. Doctors and immigrant advocates say federal immigration authorities are unfairly ordering foreign born children granted deferred action for medical treatment to return to their countries. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The sudden reversal by the Trump administration on Tuesday to allow some immigrants with medical disabilities to stay in the country was welcome news to advocates for them and their families.

The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon reported that U.S. federal immigration authorities have at least partly reversed course on a controversial decision to stop considering requests for foreign nationals to remain in the country for medical treatment or other special circumstances

Last week, the Trump administration announced it had eliminated a protection that allows immigrants to remain in the country and avoid deportation while they, or their relatives, receive life-saving medical treatments or endure other hardships, immigration officials said in letters issued to families beginning Aug. 7. It had ordered all pending cases — except for families of U.S. military personnel — to leave the country within 33 days.

A redacted letter sent last month from US Citizenship and Immigration Services to a family with a special needs member informing them they cannot remain in the country. On Tuesday, the Trump Administration reversed this policy. (Courtesy letter).

On Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said letters will go out this week reopening all cases pending as of Aug. 7. But it is unclear whether new cases will be allowed.

Deborah Tomai, the mother of an 8-year-old boy who has Down Syndrome and who is an advocate for families with disabilities who live in the Rio Grande Valley, said relocating to another country in the span of 33 days would be extremely difficult for any family, especially one with special needs.

“Personally, as a parent, any move a parent has to make with a child with disability you need more lead time than 33 days. That would be one of the huge issues; you have to line up doctors, specialists, medicine, treatment, therapies. Having to relocate, particularly to a different country with different practices and standards of medical care, I think that would be devastating,” said Tomai, who lives in Edinburg, Texas.

Upon hearing the news of the reversal in policy, Tomai said she needed a moment to process it and was careful in picking her words.

“I feel like immigration is such a complicated issue and things change so quickly with this admin and hopefully they’re not denying people and that would be the best-case scenario,” she said.

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