In a lawsuit to restore a government “deferred action” program that benefits immigrant families and children battling serious medical conditions, a group of civil rights organizations last night reached an agreement with the federal government to stay the case for 90 days.

The ACLU of Massachusetts, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), and the law firm Goodwin filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) on September 5, 2019, challenging the Trump administration’s abrupt termination of the medical deferred action program.

This pause in the litigation follows a September 19 letter by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, which purported to announce that USCIS would be “returning” a deferred action program that the agency abruptly terminated in August. Last night’s filing attaches a previously undisclosed memorandum from Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, dated September 18, instructing USCIS to resume consideration of requests for deferred action, but to grant such requests “only based on compelling facts and circumstances.”

Ronnie Millar, executive director at the IIIC, released the following statement:

"The elimination of the program has had real and devastating consequences for our clients, most of them children, all of them battling terrifying and painful illnesses. The continuing trauma of uncertainty that these families suffer is particularly cruel and unjust. While we remain hopeful that the government has in fact restored medical deferred action, we remain concerned that the decision to end it was made in the first place, and particularly that the decision was made in secret. The secrecy has continued with the government’s refusal to submit records even when required by law pursuant to a congressional subpoena. While a still-undisclosed August 7 decision may have been reversed, we have no way of knowing what other secret decisions may have undermined the integrity of the program. In light of the government’s claims to have restored deferred action, we have agreed to a temporary stay of our action in order to evaluate the veracity if it's claims."

Matt Segal, legal director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement:

“Pausing this litigation will allow our client, the IIIC, to see whether the government will truly restore this program to the children, adults, and families who desperately need it. We hope to learn that the government has reversed what was an inhumane attack on people with serious and often life-threatening illnesses. But if the IIIC and its clients discover that the government’s reversal is incomplete or illusory, we stand ready to see the government in court. We are honored to be fighting alongside these families and the IIIC.”

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, released the following statement:

"Our lawsuit — coupled with community advocacy and pressure from Congress — pushed the federal government to reverse course and to reinstate life-saving humanitarian protections. We will continue to closely monitor the federal government on this important front."

Ira Levy, partner at Goodwin released the following statement:

“The medical deferred action program is critical to protecting the basic human rights of immigrants. We are hopeful that the program has been reinstated, bringing life-saving care to those in tremendous need.”

Learn more about the case