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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

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 1 hour ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.