Contrary to a September 2 New York Times Article, the Trump Administration is Not Reinstating the Life-Saving Visa Deferral Program. It Is Only "Reconsidering Some" Waiver Requests Filed by August 7.

September 3, 2019

Screen shot of Rachel Maddow last week exposing Trump’s elimination of the visa program for foreigners who need life-saving care in the US. Contrary to the implication of a Monday New York Times headline, the program is not being reinstated.  (Screenshot:  YouTube )

Screen shot of Rachel Maddow last week exposing Trump’s elimination of the visa program for foreigners who need life-saving care in the US. Contrary to the implication of a Monday New York Times headline, the program is not being reinstated.

(Screenshot: YouTube)


On September 2, the New York Times ran an article with a headline that indicated that the Trump administration was reversing its decision to end a life-saving medical visa program. The Times headline reads: “Faced With Criticism, Trump Administration Reverses Abrupt End to Humanitarian Relief.”

The problem with the NYT headline is that it is not accurate. Indeed, as most other articles about the Trump administration Labor Day announcement indicated, only “some” cases would be reviewed, and only those waiver requests that were filed by August 7. After that date, the program would be essentially ended, except for members of the military and their families.

The New York Times has had a problem with headlines recently, and this one was no exception. CNN, for example, was much more accurate, “Immigration Agency to Re-Open Some Requests to Defer Deportation.” It’s article was more detailed about the PR nuances of the Trump action, noting that the administration was only “slightly” reversing course.

CNN was skeptical of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) claim that it was going to turn future medical deferral requests over to ICE, which is not likely to happen:

USCIS previously said that it would defer to ICE to determine if nonmilitary issues "warrant deferred action” [in the future], according to a spokesperson….

Individuals can apply to ICE for a "stay of deportation or removal," but that's done only after someone has exhausted all immigration judicial proceedings and has been ordered removed, according to an ICE official. USCIS is the agency responsible for legal immigration benefits [which include medical deferral visas]

ICE does not accept "applications" for deferred action, a discretionary act that allows the Department of Homeland Security to delay or prevent immigration enforcement, according to ICE.

Other articles also cast skepticism on the likelihood that ICE will actually process any medical referral waiver requests in the future.

So the Trump administration pulled a fast one on The New York Times, and now, as a result, many in the US believe that the life-saving visa program will continue. Furthermore, those families or individuals who have applied for a visa extension are merely being told that “some” will be considered if the applications had been filed by August 7.

CBS News referred to the muddled Labor Day announcement as merely a potential “stopgap reprieve,” with even an uncertainty of whether any of the waivers through August 7 will be approved. The CBS News article states that, “The program will still be closed to future applicants and to those who did not have a renewal petition pending on August 7.” Furthermore, there is the unanswered question of how, even if a waiver is granted for “some cases” up to August 7, how would they be renewed in the future if the program is being closed?

Even Boston Public Radio Station WBUR beat the New York Times for accuracy with the modest headline, “After Public Outcry, Feds Agree To Reopen Certain Medical Deferral Requests.”

BuzzFlash wrote an article yesterday for publication today (before the announcement), on how Rachel Maddow had laudably covered the plight of Isabel Bueso. Bueso has been receiving life-saving enzyme deficiency treatment for years at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Hospital. She is likely to die, her doctors say, within the year if she is deported to her native Guatemala, where no sophisticated treatment is available to her for her extremely rare disease.

Maddow courageously said, "The Trump administration's plan is apparently to kill her.”

Contrary to the hopeful Monday headline of The New York Times, the Trump administration has confirmed that it is still ending the program. It is possible that a few high-profile cases such as Isabel Bueso will receive short-term visa extensions as a Trump administration public relations gesture.

However, there is no process in place for Bueso and other children with life-threatening diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis to extend their visas the next time around. And the program is essentially closed to any new foreigners seeking life-saving care.

According to New England Public Radio:

The Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center has several clients affected by the end of medical deferred action. Executive Director Ronnie Millar said Monday that the announcement from USCIS gives some hope to families who received denial letters, but he said it doesn’t go far enough.

“This announcement does little to correct the injustice of ending deferred action, and only delays the cruel effects of the government’s decision,” he said. “We all remain concerned that the government is ending this life-saving program.”

In the future, this administration is still intent on issuing a “death sentence” to foreigners whose lives otherwise could be prolonged or saved. All they’ve offered is the public relations appearance of a short-term reprieve for a limited number of prior applicants.

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