Trump admin walks back plan to end deportation protections for sick migrants

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration announced Monday that it will reopen the process that helped some seriously ill migrants to defer deportation while receiving life-saving care in the U.S.

The announcement over the long holiday weekend came after the administration quietly halted the protections for sick migrants earlier this month, prompting backlash from immigrant advocates and members of Congress.

The “deferred action” program allows migrants in the country illegally to avoid deportation for compelling reasons, such as if they are in need of critical medical care.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service sent letters on Aug. 7 to every applicant petitioning for renewal in the program to tell them they had just weeks to leave the country or face deportation.

Families who thought they were safe suddenly faced the prospect of being forced to leave the country, which critics like Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey called “a de facto death sentence” for migrants receiving health care only available to them in the U.S.

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ICE carries out raids in central Mississippi
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ICE carries out raids in central Mississippi
A man is taken into custody at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, Miss., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 photo, Jesse Van Fleet, left, assists Jasmine Ward and Myles Wright, 5, of Jackson, unload donated items for the pantry at the Carlisle Crisis Center in Forest, Miss. The center, a ministry of Scott County Baptist Association, says they will need more food items to help out the families affected by the fallout of Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials at poultry plants Koch Foods and PH Foods in neighboring Morton. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 photo, while his father, Pastor Hugo Villegas inspects the freezer, Pablo Villegas, right, says the pantry at the Carlisle Crisis Center in Forest, Miss., has a limited amount of perishable foods, courtesy of the immediate community, as well as contributions from individuals as far away as Jackson, and help from some social agencies and civic groups. The center, a ministry of Scott County Baptist Association, says they will need more food items to help out the families affected by the fallout of Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials at poultry plants Koch Foods and PH Foods in neighboring Morton. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 photo, owner Juan Garcia, right, waits on a customer at Hondumex in downtown Morton, Miss. Garcia says he's considering closing his store after Wednesday's immigration arrests at the town's Koch Foods poultry plant. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)
In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 photo, Pastor Hugo Villegas, right, and his son Pablo Villegas, second from right, assist Cade Vowell, left, and his sister Addison Vowell, second from left, unload donated items for the pantry at the Carlisle Crisis Center in Forest, Miss. The center, a ministry of Scott County Baptist Association, says they will need more food items to help out the families affected by the fallout of Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials at poultry plants Koch Foods and PH Foods in neighboring Morton. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A truck loaded with chickens passes Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, following Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Gabriela Rosales, right, confers with friends outside the employee entrance to the Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, that was raided Wednesday, by U.S. immigration officials. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. A small group of people waited outside the plant for buses of released detainees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Workers exit a Koch Foods Inc., processing plant in Morton, Miss., and head to the parking lot as business continues, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, following Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials. In an email Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox said more than 300 of the 680 people arrested Wednesday have been released from custody. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Workers exit Koch Foods Inc., processing plant in Morton, Miss., as business continues, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, following Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials. In an email Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox said more than 300 of the 680 people arrested Wednesday have been released from custody. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Business continues at this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, as chickens are shipped in for processing following Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials. The raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A handcuffed woman stares though the chain link fencing at Koch Foods Inc., in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Students make their way from the cafeteria to their classes late Wednesday morning, Aug. 7, 2019, during the first day of school at Meridian High in Meridian, Miss. (Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star via AP)
Koch Foods Inc., employees leave their Morton, Miss., plant following a immigration raid Wednesday morning, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Domingo Candelaria, a registered immigrant, shows federal agents his identification as he prepares to leave the Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., following a raid by U.S. immigration officials, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The raid, one of several in Mississippi, was part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Friends, coworkers and family watch as U.S. immigration officials raid several Mississippi food processing plants, including this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Friends, coworkers and family watch as U.S. immigration officials raid several Mississippi food processing plants, including this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Friends, coworkers and family wave to one of several buses that are filled with detainees, following a U.S. Immigration raid at several Mississippi food processing plants, including this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A federal agent directs a vehicle to approach following a raid by U.S. immigration officials at a Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Handcuffed female workers are escorted into a bus for transportation to a processing center following a raid by U.S. immigration officials at a Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Koch Foods Inc., employees leave the Morton, Miss., plant following a raid by U.S. immigration officials in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A man is taken into custody as U.S. immigration officials raided the Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Friends and family console each other while U.S. immigration officials raided Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Handcuffed workers await transportation to a processing center following a raid by U.S. immigration officials at Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
This young woman cries while standing outside the Koch Foods Inc., plant as U.S. immigration officials raid the plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A federal agent directs Koch Foods Inc., employees following an immigration raid Wednesday morning, Aug. 7, 2019 in Morton, Miss. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Workers exit this Koch Foods Inc., processing plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Two people are taken into custody at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, Miss., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. U.S. immigration officials raided several Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and signaled that the early-morning strikes were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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“I don’t know how they expect parents to pull their children from hospital beds, disconnect them from lifesaving treatments and go someplace where they are know they are going to die,” Anthony Marino, director of Immigration Legal Services, said on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” “But that is what they are telling them to do.”

But on Monday, USCIS reversed course, saying it would reopen the deferred action process.

“While limiting USCIS’ role in deferred action is appropriate, USCIS will complete the caseload that was pending on August 7,” the Department of Homeland Security agency said. "As USCIS' deferred action caseload is reduced, the career employees who decide such cases will be more available to address other types of legal immigration applications on a more efficient basis.”

The agency said in its announcement that no one who had been sent an earlier letter was targeted for deportation. However, the agency's defense of its position as “appropriate” left it unclear what the rules will be for people who hadn’t submitted renewal applications before the Aug. 7 deadline.

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