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Nessel joins plea for action in Ann Arbor man's immigration case

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has gotten involved in the case of an undocumented Ann Arbor man who says he needs costly medications to stay alive after a kidney transplant.

Abraham Navarrete-Morales submitted his request for a deferral from deportation in December 2018. In recent months, his attorney Brad Thomson has been pressing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a response, including going public with a plea for action last month.

But Thomson says USCIS’ Detroit field office has simply not responded. “I was expecting that at least we would hear from them to say that the case was pending, but it’s been absolute silence,” Thomson said.

Navarrete-Morales says he needs multiple medications to prevent his body from rejecting his new kidney. Those medications can cost thousands of dollars per month. Thomson says that’s become unaffordable after Morales’ private health insurance plan cut him off due to his lack of legal status.

Nessel’s letter to Kenneth Cuccinelli, the director of USCIS, asks him to grant the humanitarian deferment on medical grounds. The Trump administration announced earlier this year that it would stop granting requests for deferred action based on humanitarian concerns, before backtracking last month.

“Despite the restoration of the policy, Mr. Navarrete-Morales has still not received a response from his request to receive an additional deferment,” Nessel wrote. “Mr. Navarrete-Morales has been left in an impossible position where he would be unable to afford the necessary medicine in his country of origin [Mexico]. As a result of the resumption of this policy, I am hopeful that your agency may finally respond to Abraham Navarrete-Morales and grant him an extension of his deferment.”

Nessel’s letter concludes by asking that USCIS grant Navarrete-Morales deferred action status “immediately so that he may obtain the medication he needs, which may only occur if he can show that he is authorized to continue to stay in Michigan. This deferment policy has governed this country for more than a generation, and it has been a benchmark of this country’s longstanding commitment to life and liberty.”

Thomson says there’s no timeline for USCIS to process such requests, which are unusual and number only in the dozens nationally each year. But he says it’s “frustrating” that given the life-or-death situation, he can’t get any kind of response from the agency.

“We’re scrambling to figure out what we can do to keep him alive, and to try to expedite a decision on his application so he can re-enroll in his private health insurance,” Thomson said. “There’s a number of people in the community, a number of organizations that have stepped up and are interested in helping Abraham out. So hopefully we can get a temporary fix until the government can figure out how to make decisions on applications.”

USCIS has said it cannot comment on specific cases, citing privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, Navarrete-Morales did receive some good news on Monday. After running out of an initial month’s supply of medication provided for free through a University of Michigan emergency fund, Navarrete-Morales found out that he was approved for financial assistance to obtain his medications through the end of the year—though whether he’ll be able to afford even that for long is unclear.

“All I can say is, we’ll see,” Navarrete-Morales said.

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.
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