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October 30, 2019

Rep. Pressley Demands Answers on the Trump Administration’s Decision to End Medical Deferred Action

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WASHINGTON – Today, during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform entitled “The Administration’s Decision to Deport Critically Ill Children and Their Families,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) questioned Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), about his department’s decision to terminate medical deferred action for critically ill immigrant children and their families. During her line of questioning, Acting Director Cuccinelli confirmed on the record for the first time that it was his decision to end the deferred action program.


Congresswoman Pressley has been a vocal advocate for immigrants whose livelihoods were threatened by Trump Administration’s termination of the medical deferred action program.  Earlier this year, Congresswoman Pressley led more than 120 of her colleagues in sending a letter to Cuccinelli, the Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan and the Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matthew T. Albence demanding answers on USCIS’s decision to end consideration of medical deferred action requests. In September, she joined her House Oversight Committee colleagues for an emergency hearing on the effort to end deferred action. In October, she convened a roundtable with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and deferred action recipients in Massachusetts to discuss the life-or-death implications of terminating the policy.


Congresswoman Pressley’s opening testimony is below, along with an excerpt from her discussion with Cuccinelli.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This hearing has been a long time coming.


There was some commentary from my colleagues across the aisle saying that we have better things to work on and should not be wasting our time. I never want us to lose sight of the impact on real people’s lives when we are talking about policy. That is in fact why the American people sent us here, so we are not in fact wasting our time. 


Gentlemen, it is disappointing that it took the threats of subpoenas to bring you before our committee today. In a moment I’ll turn to your actions, but first I want to center the families that have been impacted by this egregious policy shift.


Families like my constituents the Sanchez family and Serena Ibanez and her mom Conchita. I told them when I met them that I would fight for their children as if they were my own, and I intend to honor that.


16-year-old Jonathan bravely came before this committee and shared his story – he spoke of how Cystic Fibrosis has ravaged his body and in fact the tragic death of his younger sister in Honduras who suffered similarly. The reckless actions of your agency that have put his very ability to receive life preserving medical care at risk are just unconscionable.


For 83 days, Mr. Chairman— nearly 3 months now — we have been demanding answers out of this Administration. Mr. Cuccinelli, you testified that you understand that we want more paperwork but you simply don’t have it. None of us here – we’re in government – we don’t want more paperwork. But what we do want are real answers and justice for these families and a peace of mind. They deserve that and their children deserve that.


And so for nearly three months we have been demanding answers out of this administration for its horrendous and calloused attempt to deport our critically ill immigrant neighbors and their families. And while I am relieved that the policy has been reversed, these families and the American people deserve answers. They deserve the certainty that they will be able to remain in this country. 


So, I’d like to thank the brave families like these and countless others, who despite the traumatic and imminent fear of deportation and having to fight a life-threatening illness, stepped up and spoke out to shine a light on this injustice, as well as the attorneys and the advocacy organizations.


I’d also like to request unanimous consent to include statements for the record from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Boston as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Thank you.


Now gentlemen, your agencies have still failed to turn over a single document in response to our letter and even in response to the subpoenas that our forever Chairman, may he rest in power, Elijah Cummings signed in his last official act before his transition.


It’s shameful, but consistent. I hope you have can answer the questions I have. 


UCSIS and ICE have continuously refused to identify who made the decision to end consideration of deferred action at USCIS. 


I can only assume it is because no one wants to put their name on such a disastrous, cruel and un-American policy. And the government officials who made that decision ought to be held to account.






Pressley: Yes or No Mr. Cuccinelli, did anyone at the White House play a role in this decision?


Cuccinelli: This was an agency decision solely, other than the discussion within the Department of Homeland Security…


Pressley: Did Stephen Miller play a role in this decision or not?


Cuccinelli: I’m not going to get into specific commentary back and forth, but I made this decision…


Pressley: I’m asking you to answer yes or no. Was the President involved in this decision?


Cuccinelli: We cannot, as you well know, talk about content of discussions with the White House…


Pressley: You just said that you made the decision. Ok so was the President involved yes or no?


Cuccinelli: I made this decision alone.


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