The American government has announced a new policy that reflects a new level of petty cruelty, bringing each of us down with it.
"Medical deferred action" is a small protection initiated in the Obama era that let immigrants stay in the country and avoid being deported while they or their relatives received life-saving treatments. Many of the people affected by the policy change came to the U.S. through a visa or other permitted status and are requesting to stay beyond those terms to receive medical treatment. They have followed the rules.
Those in the program received a letter dated Aug. 16 that gave them 33 days to leave the country, after which the process to remove them will begin. There is apparently no avenue of appeal.
A press conference in Boston on Monday put a human face on the issue. Jonathan Sanchez, 16, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was born with cystic fibrosis. According to The Boston Globe, Jonathan and his parents came to Boston in 2016, after his elder sister died of the disease in Honduras, so he could be treated at Boston Children's Hospital. He regularly receives physical therapy and intravenous antibiotics at the facility.
Jonathan says he will die from the disease if he is sent back to Honduras. "In my country there is no treatment for CF," he said. "The only ones who can help me are here in the United States." His mother, Mariela Sanchez, said, "He would die without a doctor, without help, without medicine. Our country is not in any position to help him."
Other children in the program suffer from such ills as severe epilepsy and cancer. The policy change will affect at least three dozen children in Boston hospitals and possibly thousands of immigrants across the country. Immigrant advocates have called the changes and cruel and inhumane. The hospitals involved support the program.
"I don't know how they expect parents to pull their children from hospital beds, disconnect them from life-saving treatments, and go somewhere where they know the child is going to die, but that's what they're telling them to do," said Anthony Marino, director of legal services for the Irish International Immigrant Center. This organization has helped families from numerous countries obtain medical deferred action status for a decade.
Why is this protection being eliminated? Is it money? It's not clear how many individuals across the U.S. have been covered by this protection or how much the program has cost taxpayers. Does it cost more than the $105 million that Forbes magazine in July estimated the president's golf trips have cost taxpayers so far?
What kind of country sends children who did nothing wrong off to certain death? Yes, this cruelty is being inflicted in our name by our government. This is not who we are individually but it is what we have become in the eyes of a world , that sees what America does and judges it accordingly. Anyone who does not wish to be an accomplice in sending a sick child to a certain death has to speak up immediately, loudly and persistently at the outrage being perpetrated in his or her name. We are America and we are what America does.
A more modest suggestion: make a small monetary donation to a nonprofit that helps or advocates for immigrants, whatever their exact status. These include the above-mentioned Irish International Immigrant Center or our own Berkshire Immigrant Center. We do not have to acquiesce to cruelty.