Aug. 27, 2019 -- An exemption that allows immigrants to remain in the United States and avoid deportation while they or family members receive life-saving care has been scrapped by the Trump administration.
The policy change was effective Aug. 7, according to a Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman, and letters were issued to affected people, the Associated Press reported.
The decision could force migrants to seek less effective treatment in their homelands, critics say.
"This is a new low," Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said. "Donald Trump is literally deporting kids with cancer."
Honduras native Mariela Sanchez arrived in the U.S. with her family in 2016 and recently applied for the exemption for her 16-year-old son, Jonathan, who has cystic fibrosis, the AP reported.
A denial would amount to a death sentence for her son, said Sanchez, whose family settled in Boston.
"He would be dead,' if the family had remained in Honduras, she told the AP. "I have panic attacks over this every day."
In Boston alone, the Trump administration decision could affect about 20 families with children being treated for cancer, HIV, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and other serious conditions, according to Anthony Marino, head of immigration legal services at the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents the families.
"Can anyone imagine the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care -- to pull them from a hospital bed -- knowing that it will cost them their lives?" Marino told the AP.
The letters sent to applicants for the exemption order them to leave the country within 33 days or face deportation, which could harm their future visa or immigration requests.