Pressley, immigration services chief tangle at hearing
Cuccinelli: I made medical deferred action decision alone
THE ACTING HEAD of the nation’s immigration services agency, testifying before Congress under subpoena, said he and he alone made the decision to end medical deferred action, which allowed critically ill immigrants into the country for specialized medical care.
“I made this decision, alone,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. He was responding to questions from Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who asked if President Trump or his political advisor Stephen Miller played any role.
Cuccinelli also said “it was a mistake” to end medical deferred action “retroactively,” meaning cutting off immigrants who were currently receiving treatment or in the process of seeking treatment. He said the initiative should have been halted just for new applicants.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on September 18 that all medical deferred action requests denied or pending as of August 7 were to be reopened for further consideration. While Cuccinelli said 41 cases had been reviewed and completed as of this week, families represented by the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston say they have not received notices updating them about their applications and the reversal of the policy change.
Cuccinelli also claimed that people applying for medical deferred action typically enter the country illegally. But a number of lawmakers on the committee said many immigrants on medical deferred status come into the US initially on tourist visas, find out whether medical care is available here, and then apply for medical deferred status.
When Cuccinelli halted medical deferred action, letters were sent to more than 400 families across the US, including at least 40 individuals in Massachusetts, saying their protected immigration status had been rescinded and they had 33 days to leave the country or face deportation.
Those receiving the letters included families with children suffering from cancer, cystic fibrosis, and congenital heart conditions. Many of them participated in press conferences, which drew attention to the issue and caused a national outcry. It remains unclear, even after over two hours of testimony, if and when families will receive notice of their approvals or denials.
New York Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accused Cuccinelli and Trump of pursuing a “white supremacist ideology” for their efforts to change immigration policies significantly impacting people who are not Caucasian.
“I am not a white supremacist, nor is the president,” said Cuccinelli.At a congressional hearing in September, representatives from US Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they were unable to answer many questions about medical deferred action because of ongoing litigation on the issue. The refusal to answer questions prompted the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who was on his deathbed, to sign subpoenas for Cuccinelli and Matthew Albence, the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
Cuccinelli testified on Wednesday that it “had never ever been the case” to have medical deferred action requests transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. CommonWealth reported August 26 on a message sent out by Citizenship and Immigration Services that said “medical deferred action requests are now submitted to ICE for consideration.”