NOEL KING, HOST:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has notified migrants who are suffering from serious medical conditions that they will not be allowed to stay in this country for treatment. The agency told these people that they have to leave in 33 days. Now migrant advocates say lives are at stake. From member station WBUR, Shannon Dooling has the story.
SHANNON DOOLING, BYLINE: The program known as Medical Deferred Action allows people to remain in the U.S. for two-year periods if they can prove lifesaving medical treatment is only available to them here. Many of the people affected by the policy change came to the U.S. with some sort of visa or other status and are requesting to stay beyond those terms to receive medical care. Immigrant advocates and attorneys gathered in Boston, outraged by the denials, say such extensions have been routinely granted by USCIS. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey says families are now facing an impossible choice.
ED MARKEY: Face the threat of Trump's deportation force, or families and patients can suspend treatment and return to their home countries, which could be a de facto death sentence.
DOOLING: Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, who was born in Honduras, has a pending request with USCIS. He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby after his parents sent blood samples to the U.S. His sister died of the disease 18 years ago after she was unable to secure specialized treatment in Honduras. The Sanchez family entered the U.S. on tourist visas in 2016 and were able to get an extension. But the teen's treatment is ongoing. Now Sanchez says he's feeling stressed and scared that he too will be denied.
JONATHAN SANCHEZ: If they deny the program, then I need to go back to my country. And I'll probably die because, in my country, there is no treatment for CF.
DOOLING: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service told WBUR it's no longer considering most deferrals of deportation for people with serious medical conditions, and the requests are now being submitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for consideration. It's unclear what such a change would mean for these immigrants. ICE didn't respond to requests for clarification. Immigration attorneys say the denial letters to their clients don't mention a new process with ICE.
For NPR News, I'm Shannon Dooling in Boston.
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