DHS formally backs off plans to deport sick immigrant children

After backlash from Congress and the public, the administration says it will resume consideration of deportations on a "case-by-case" basis.
Image: Maria Isabel Bueso, Jonathan Sanchez, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Fiona Danaher, Anthony Marino, Thomas Homan
Witnesses are sworn in at a House Oversight subcommittee hearing into the Trump administration's decision to stop considering requests from immigrants seeking to remain in the country for medical treatment and other hardships on Sept. 11, 2019.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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By Heidi Przybyla

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration formally backed away from plans to deport critically ill immigrant children in a notification sent to Congress Thursday.

In a letter sent to the House Oversight Committee, the Department of Homeland Security said that it is “resuming its consideration of non-military deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis.”

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The administration, as part of its broader immigration crackdown, had announced in August it would shut down the medically deferred action program, which allowed families of critically ill children to receive care in the United States without fear of deportation.

Families had been told the program was being terminated and that they had 33 days to leave the country.

The decision prompted enormous backlash from lawmakers and advocates, leading the administration to signal days later that it would at least temporarily continue allowing medical requests to be processed.

Last week, the Oversight Committee held a hearing on the policy, where children suffering from cystic fibrosis and other illnesses testified they could die if sent back to their home countries.

The committee was scheduled to hold an additional hearing on the matter next week, with testimony from Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.

“It appears that the Trump Administration is reversing its inhumane and disastrous decision to deport critically ill children and their families who are receiving life-saving medical treatment in the United States,” Cummings said in a statement.