I just received an urgent update from my friend and former ministry partner, Tim Isaacson, who’s the director of the Atlanta chapter of Immigrant Hope. He is asking people to pray and to advocate for the families he is working with and others like them all over the nation. I’ll let you read Tim’s words (lightly edited for length and clarity):
Last Wednesday, we received an order from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) saying that our seven (7)-year-old client had thirty-three days to leave the country or else face deportation proceedings. The background to this situation is that he, his mom, and his older sister are immigrants who have received humanitarian deferred action (HDA) for the past three years because his younger sister is a US citizen with Down Syndrome who was born without one of the blood vessels that takes blood from her heart to her lungs. I met her and her mom in the neonatal cardiac intensive care unit in October 2016 when she was only a couple of weeks old. I did the intake for the family’s case from the baby’s bedside. The pediatric surgeon was able to successfully build an artificial blood vessel for the baby, but as she grows, it needs to be replaced.
We had helped our clients submit the application for renewal of their HDA. It should have been straightforward as it has been since 2016. But what we learned was that on August 6, 2019, USCIS decided to no longer do deferred action cases like this. But they didn’t tell anyone. They just decided that all cases like this in the system would be denied. In our area of the country, they also decided to proceed with active removal.
We have thirteen (13) of these cases at different points in the process. We have contacted almost all of them. We’re holding paperwork on the cases we haven’t yet submitted until we know what’s going on. For those who have been issued denial letters and threats, we are finding attorneys and trying to figure out what the next steps are. Hopefully, there are attorneys out there who will be able to sue and stop or delay what is going on. But who knows.
Normally, if something is sent to ICE for processing, it opens up other options for families. However, we don’t know if the order to stop doing these kinds of deferred action extends to ICE as well. The government hasn’t said, and people all around the country are trying to find out.
We’re serving families with children who have major heart conditions like this one but others with cancer, host-graft rejection, immune system failure, organ transplants, etc. None of these are underhanded ways to get into the US or to steal jobs or to supplant American culture. I have one mother who has to suction out her daughter’s airway almost every 15 minutes on a bad day. Her initial humanitarian deferred action was approved because the child’s doctors certified that she was too sick to travel. If her mom were deported, it would not only traumatize the child but would most assuredly negatively impact her health. The immigration system has long had stop-gaps for emergencies like this. But for some reason, USCIS seems to have made a whole-sale decision to just end programs without review, deliberation, or consideration of unintended consequences (which are devastating).
In addition to our own cases, we are now getting calls from people who have received denial letters but whose attorneys will no longer represent them. It is beyond me how anyone can abandon a family at a time like this, but it does tell me that we are in the right place at the right time doing the right work.
I am asking for two things: prayer and phone calls. Prayer for these families. The added stress, fear, and unknowns have become unbearable for some. Please pray that resources and opportunities open up for these families. Finally, please pray for me. The combination of caring deeply and rage is not healthy. Second, please call your congressperson and share your outrage and concern. The only way we get this avalanche of inhumanity to stop is if we put this on the front burner and let people with power know. Make a succinct statement that you have heard about the ending of non-military deferred action by CIS and the harm it is causing families with medically fragile children, and that you would like your representative to do something about it.
Sample script: I have just heard about the sudden and unannounced ending of non-military deferred action by USCIS on August 6, 2019. I’ve also found out that it is causing great harm to families with medically fragile, US-citizen children. In many of these cases, the government has not only decided not to renew deferred action but has also begun actively seeking to deport the primary caretaker parents and other family members to whom it had previously granted humanitarian deferred action. Please intervene on behalf of these already overwhelmed and vulnerable families for whom this arbitrary policy change is causing massive upheaval and stress.