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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Tell Your Members of Congress to Make Medical Deferred Action Permanent!

On August 7, 2019, the Administration abruptly decided to end consideration of non-military deferred action requests, commonly known as medical deferred action. With no warning, individuals began receiving letters from U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) informing them that their pending applications and renewals for deferral had been denied, and they had 33 days to leave the country or risk deportation.

Medical deferred action allows immigrant children with life-threatening health conditions and disabilities (and their families) to stay in the U.S. for treatment. Medical deferment allows these children to receive government-funded healthcare, and allows their family members to work legally while their child receives medical treatment. Individuals approved for deferment are from countries where life-sustaining and life-saving treatments are not available, and therefore, they will not have access to proper treatment if they are deported.

After a lot of backlash, USCIS announced they would reopen cases that were pending when they ended the program (on August 7). The USCIS notice stated that they still plan to reduce the deferred action caseload, and that doing so will make employees more available to address other types of legal immigration applications. In addition to implying that deferred action requests are not fully lawful (they are), as a reminder, with the finalization of the new public charge rule, it will now be even harder for sick and disabled immigrants to enter the US or become lawful permanent residents. Read our statement on the public charge rule

Without question, this abrupt policy shift puts the lives of sick and disabled immigrants at risk. Again, individuals are approved for this program because it is determined they cannot get the life-saving treatment they need in their home country; for at least some of these people, ending medical deferments will literally be a death sentence. And while the initial step by USCIS to re-open pending requests is a small start, it does nothing to protect them longer-term when they’re next up for renewal, or to protect the many other lives at risk from this permanent policy change. On the heels of the public charge rule finalization, ending medical deferred actions is just one more way the Administration is harming disabled immigrants and furthering their anti-immigrant agenda.

Only by reversing this new policy change completely can the harm be avoided and lives be saved. NCIL, with over 150 other organizations, has called upon USCIS in a letter to Acting Director Cuccinelli to fully restore acceptance and adjudication of deferred action requests. NCIL also signed on to a statement of record with other disability rights organizations for today’s hearing from the House Oversight Committee. Today’s hearing is an important step, because Congress can stop this from moving forward by passing legislation to make medical deferred action a permanent program.

Take Action!

Urge your Senators and Representatives to reverse the USCIS decision and pass legislation to make medical deferred action permanent! Medical deferment should be a permanent process that is granted as long as the need for ongoing medical treatment remains.

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at


  1. Cindy Montgomery says

    Make medical deferred action permanent. It matters more than anyone ‘s career.

  2. Nancy Littell says

    Please make medical deferred action permanent. Giving hope (medical treatment) and then snatching it away (letter saying you have 33 days to leave the USA) is cruel and makes enemies for the USA. Do the right thing, please.

  3. Susan Oppenheimer says

    Make medical deferment permanent. Will we retain any decency in this country?

  4. Susan Oppenheimer says

    Will we retain any decency in this country?

    Please do the moral thing.

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