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“Abraham will die without his medication;" plea for action on Michigan man's immigration case

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

An Ann Arbor man says he fears he will die if U.S. immigration officials don’t act soon on his request for protected status, “based on urgent humanitarian concerns.”

Abraham Navarrete-Morales, 32, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who’s been in the U.S. for about 14 years. He says he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure at age 24, and was on dialysis for years before receiving a kidney transplant last year.

But Morales needs multiple medications to prevent his body from rejecting the organ. Now, he says he’s at risk of going without those medications—which cost up to $7,000 a month out of pocket—after he says his health insurance cut him off this week.

Morales’ insurer ended his coverage because his request for deferred action from deportation is still in limbo with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, despite having been submitted in November 2018. He was first granted deferred action in 2015, which allowed him to buy private health insurance coverage.

Brad Thomson, Morales’ attorney, says despite his repeated requests for information and pleas to USCIS to act on Morales’ case, the government has not indicated when or if it might approve it. He says now, it’s a matter of life or death.

“Abraham will die without his medication. There’s no medical debate,” Thomson says. “If this application is approved, Abraham will be able to immediately re-enroll in his health insurance plan.”

Thomson said deporting Morales would also be a death sentence, because Mexico’s national health insurance plan doesn’t cover the drugs he needs, and they would also be unaffordable for him there.

Morales says he has about a month’s supply of medication, thanks to an emergency fund at the University of Michigan Hospital, where he received his kidney transplant. He says what happens next is in the hands of officials at the USCIS Detroit field office.

“All those hundreds, maybe thousands of applications that they have there sitting in a desk; it’s not just numbers. Those are people’s lives,” Morales says.

“I’m not here to cause any trouble to anybody. I just want to move on in my life, and in this case, just survive. I guess that’s what I’m doing at this point.”

In August, the Trump administration announced that USCIS would no longer consider most requests for deferrals, including those it had formerly granted on humanitarian grounds, including urgent medical needs. But earlier this month the agency backtracked,saying it would still consider deferrals that were pending as of August 7.

A USCIS spokeswoman says the agency was prohibited from commenting on Morales or other specific cases because of privacy restrictions.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.