Immigrant children with life-threatening illnesses facing possible deportation

Immigrant kids getting medical care could face deportation

Last Updated Aug 29, 2019 10:45 PM EDT

Boston — Due to a change in policy by the Trump administration, hundreds of immigrant children receiving medical care in the U.S. are facing possible deportation. The children are in the country legally and many suffer from serious diseases, including cancer.

A vibrating vest, nebulizer and special medication help keep 16-year-old Jonathan Sanchez alive. He's battling cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder damaging his lungs and digestive system. It also claimed the life of his sister Samantha, back in Honduras, when she was just 6 months old.

The family came to the U.S. legally in 2016 and applied for "medical deferred action," a program that allows immigrants to receive life-saving treatment for up to two years. But, this week they received a denial notice, giving them 30 days to leave the country or face deportation. 

"To receive that letter is like a big hit," said Gary Sanchez, Jonathan's father. "I don't know what will happen with the future."

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Jonathan Sanchez, 16, is in the U.S. getting treatment for cystic fibrosis. But this week, his family received a notice, giving them 33 days to leave the country or face deportation. CBS News

As part of new Trump administration policy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changed the medical deferment program, leaving hundreds of immigrant children in limbo. When CBS News reached out to USCIS, the agency did not give a reason for the sudden change in policy, but said Immigration and Customs Enforcement will now handle the applications. 

However when CBS News reached out to ICE, they said it has "no policy or program to deal with medical deferred action," adding, there's "no plan" to take it over.

While wearing his New England Patriots shirt, Jonathan Sanchez made his opinion on potentially leaving the country clear.

"The letter, in the words, it said that we need to leave the country in 33 days. But in my perspective, it's making legal homicide," he said.

Neither ICE or USCIS would appear on camera. An ICE official told CBS News it was not consulted about the policy change and only learned of it once those letters were sent out.