Fact Check: No, Donald Trump Did Not Decide to Deport Kids with Cancer

Joe Biden (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News

CLAIM: President Donald Trump is ending “a policy that allows migrants to not be deported while they or their family members receive life-saving medical treatments.”

VERDICT: False. There was never any such policy, and all the Trump administration is doing is moving discretion over individual cases from USCIS to ICE.

The media were abuzz Wednesday and Thursday with claims, such as the one quoted from The Hill, above, that Trump is so hell-bent on deporting people that he is even “deporting kids with cancer,” as Vanity Fair put it (adding that Trump was once again living down to comparisons to Adolf Hitler).

Former vice president Joe Biden seized on the news, and added it to his stump speech. He declared, for example, on Thursday night in Greenville, South Carolina:

In just the last few days, we’ve learned his newest target is children. I thought we’d hit the bottom. No! … He decided to take away automatic citizenship from the children of our military serving overseas. … Like every bully in history, he’s trying to make himself seem stronger by picking on the most vulnerable … I thought even he would understand that kids suffering from cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other diseases they can’t get treatment for in their countries were off limits. But like so many other things he’s said, cruelty seems to be the point. … They all have to be unplugged and gone. Ladies and gentlemen — Neuroblastoma! — I can’t imagine, if I had been an immigrant, my son Beau, when he came home from the war, and he ended up having stage 4 glioblastoma … and them telling me, “No, unplug him, send him home.” That’s what it is! That’s what he’s doing! And it’s immoral, and it’s wrong!

Everything about that statement is false.

Trump is not taking away birthright citizenship “from the children of our military serving overseas.” An NBC reporter had to issue a correction: “Experts who have looked at new USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services] policy say it applies if a service member adopts a child overseas, but children born to service members on deployment would still automatically get citizenship.” (Evidently Joe Biden did not get that particular memo.)

Second, there is no existing policy of “special status” for medical deferment, according to sources who spoke to Breitbart News on background.

What has happened in the past is that illegal aliens — not legal “immigrants,” as Biden suggested — were able to apply to an adjudicator at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for deferment from deportation. The majority of “deferred action” requests were denied by USCIS. Now they will be considered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is an enforcement agency (as USCIS is not).

The Associated Press cited letters sent to some Boston-area families ordering them to leave the country within 33 days. The letters apparently did not mention the shift in agency responsibilities. It is not yet clear what is happening in those cases, or why those individuals were not told about the shift from USCIS to ICE.

Nevertheless, what is happening to those individuals does not appear to be the result of a change in “special status” by Trump. Notably, the Associated Press refers to “immigrants” — not “illegal immigrants,” or even “undocumented” immigrants, obscuring the status of those affected (and perhaps frightening some legal immigrants).

People who want to travel to the U.S. for specialized care can still do so, legally, by applying via normal channels.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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