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Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Immigrants battling severe illnesses who would ordinarily be given special, temporary protection from deportation have been told those protections are no longer available and they must leave the U.S. within 33 days, according to letters sent by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and first reported by WBUR.

Why it matters: USCIS has since said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will now oversee the "medical deferred action" program — a change that had not been formally announced. An ICE official told the New York Times that the agency "had no idea" about the change, nor is it prepared to handle the new responsibility.

  • Medical deferred action allows immigrants who are receiving treatment for serious medical conditions such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy to stay in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation. Family members can also receive this deferred action.
  • There are around 1,000 applicants for the 2-year program each year, according to the Times.
  • "Because USCIS is not an enforcement agency, it is not appropriate for us to adjudicate requests for suspended enforcement not clearly assigned to us in law or policy," an agency spokesperson told Axios, adding that USCIS and ICE worked together on the change, "which will impact a limited number of people."

The big picture: Earlier this August, ICE made it easier for officers to deport crime victims waiting for decisions on their U visa applications — a visa specifically designed for victims who cooperate with law enforcement.

  • In the past, ICE was required to ask USCIS for a preliminary decision on whether an immigrant was likely to be granted a U visa, an ICE spokesperson told Axios. That would determine whether the immigrant could stay in the U.S. while awaiting a final decision. ICE officers and lawyers can now make that judgement on their own.
  • The Trump administration has made it harder for other victims of persecution, violence or human trafficking to find refuge in the U.S., as Axios has reported.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

5 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."