Trump’s Effort To Deport Kids With Cancer Is Beyond Cruel

The Trump Administration has given 33-day deportation notices to undocumented children with illnesses who were protected by a newly shuttered program.

It happened twenty years ago, but it could have been yesterday. My grandson nearly died. To save his life and to preserve his airway, the doctors kept him in a medical coma. We were not allowed to touch him lest we wake him and lose his tenuous breathing. He spent years recovering. Today, he is a healthy young adult. Had he been moved from his medical caregivers at any time during that process, he would have died. I had this in mind when reading about the Trump Administration’s latest cruel move.

The United States had a program known as “medical deferred action.” NPR explained that it was designed for those who are permitted to be in the country. If extreme medical need arose, they could apply to lengthen their stays. Under the terms of this agreement, parents were allowed to work while they remained in the country with their gravely ill children.

Earlier in August, with no announcement or fanfare, the Trump administration abruptly stopped the program. Without warning, parents of gravely ill children were given thirty-three days to leave the country or be deported. The letter itself can be seen on the NPR website. Many of the targeted families had arranged for interviews with authorities to request an extension. Their children needed more time, more treatment. Discontinuing treatment now and moving would amount to death for many of these children.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow aired a powerful segment about this on Wednesday night:

I watched Maddow’s report and my memories were triggered. I kept going back to those nightmare days in the surgical pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, OK. I cringed, I wept for the parents who are being forced to deprive their children of life-giving care in the United States. Where we are born is a matter of dumb luck. How we are treated and how we treat others is not luck. It’s morality. It’s choosing not to be cruel. The Trump administration increasingly chooses a path of cruelty and contempt for human life.

This bears repeating: Discontinuing treatment now and kicking them out of the country would amount to death sentences. For children.

There is presently no vehicle for appeal. In a typical bureaucratic ploy, parents were told that ICE was now handling their cases. But ICE has said that they were unaware of the program being canceled and they don’t have a process for this.

These children have diseases such as: leukemia, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy. One child cited has a feeding tube going directly into his abdomen. Otherwise, he would starve. These feeding tubes require a lot of maintenance, which means living in or near a major medical center is a requirement

I know this from personal experience. My grandson had such a feeding tube.

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Jonathan Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Honduras has been at Boston’s Children’s Hospital for three years of treatment for cystic fibrosis. With this treatment, his life expectancy is 37 years. His mother is blunt: if he returns to Hondu”ras, “he will die.” His sister died in Honduras of cystic fibrosis. She was 18.

We cannot accept cruelty as the norm. More is at stake than the lives of these children – although that is important enough. If we turn a blind eye to this suffering, our nation’s soul is at stake. Apathy becomes its own brand of cruelty.

Throughout this administration, we have watched atrocities escalate in this country with its promise of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We must reclaim the promise of America.

As Rachel Maddow reminded us on her show: “Imagine being a parent told you must withhold life-saving treatment. Imagine being the sick kid. Imagine.”

If we imagine, then we cannot stand by and countenance this cruelty. We cannot.

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Opinion // Donald Trump / Human Rights / Immigration