Five-year-old Samuel Fonseca suffers from short bowel syndrome. His family believes that, if he's deported, he may die. (Carl Stevens/WBZ NewsRadio)
BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Sen. Ed Markey joined immigration leaders in Boston Monday who are urging the Trump administration to "find their humanity again" and reverse a decision that could result in the deportations of thousands of sick people.
In the past, it has been United States policy to give medical deferments to immigrant families who enter the country for medical treatment they cannot receive in their homeland.
But earlier this month, the Trump administration quietly abandoned that policy and informed immigrant families they have to leave by the middle of September.
At a press conference Monday afternoon at the Irish International Immigrant Center in Downtown Boston, Sen. Markey called the policy change one of "the most inhumane of Donald Trump's policies," and said that for many, these deportations would be "the equivalent of a death sentence."
"We are here to raise our voices about this inhumane policy which Donald Trump has propounded in the name of the American people," Markey said. "It is unconscionable, it is wrong, and we are here to say that we will fight."
The Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) represents families of severely ill children who have been allowed to stay in the country for medical treatment.
Now, 20 of the families that the IIIC represents have 33 days to leave the country.That includes five-year-old Samuel Fonseca from Brazil.
Fonseca was brought to the United States for treatment for short bowel syndrome, a condition where nutrients are absorbed poorly by the intestines. His family worries that, if he's deported, the boy could die.
"The government ordered the children and their families to leave, and threatened deportation against any who didn't," Anthony Marino, the IIIC's Director of Immigration Legal Services, said. "Can anyone imagine as a parent the government ordering you to disconnect your child from life-saving care, pull them from a hospital bed, and take them away, knowing it will cost their lives?"
Marino spoke about the alternative situations immigrants may find themselves in without medical deferred action.
"Deferred has always been a mechanism for families to avoid the horrific choice of abandoning a child's life-saving treatment or cowering over a suffering child in the shadows," he said. "We urge officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the administration to find their humanity again and reverse this decision."
Ronnie Millar, the IIIC's Executive Director, said it was the latest in a long line of administration policies that hurt immigrants.
"Just when you think the administration can't sink any lower, it finds a new way to torture immigrant children and families," Millar said.
The head of ACLU Massachusetts said their attorneys are getting ready to fight the policy change in court.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said on Twitter Monday that "disregarding immigrants' requests to temporarily stay in the US for life-saving treatment is absurd and inhumane. "
Yusufi Vali, Director of Mayor Walsh's Office for Immigrant Advancement, said the policy was "as if you have a sick person in your home and you kick them out onto the curb to die."
In the meantime, 19 states are suing over the Trump administration's efforts to alter a federal agreement limiting how long immigrant children can be kept in detention.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading that lawsuit, alongside California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
WBZ NewsRadio's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports