America has long been proud of its role in being a safe and generous haven for those fleeing for their lives, including those seeking life-saving treatments from those on the cutting edge of medical research. That role has been turned into a cynical bait-and-switch scheme.

Until about a week ago, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency routinely extended the visas of patients in the United States who were receiving medical treatment. Suddenly, those patients and their families were given a month to get out, whether or not they still needed the treatment they had come for. The order to leave can amount to a death sentence.

These immigrants are not rule breakers. They have special visas with automatic two-year renewals because of their continuing medical issues. Suddenly, those renewals were denied.

This week, in the face of public outrage, the corresponding 30-day deportation deadlines were reversed, sort of. USCIS announced it will review the cases of those whose applications were pending on Aug. 7. Those cases have not been “targeted for deportation,” the announcement said.

At the same time, the medical deferral visa program will remain closed. American medicine that is the envy of much of the world will be off limits to non-Americans. Research that depends on finding rare cases in other parts of the world and produces treatments that benefit Americans as well may no longer be possible.

What is the point here? Why would any politician make such a move? Is this administration really so anti-immigrant that it wants even those who come here for medical treatments not available in their own countries to stay away?

It appears that demonizing those who attempt to improve their lot by living in the United States without documents and painting a refugee crisis affecting Mexico and Central America as an existential threat hasn’t been enough. People like acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli and White House xenophobe Stephen Miller have turned their regulatory guns on these and other legal immigrants.

Periodically, America’s basic values, codified in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Statue of Liberty, are repudiated by nationalistic jingoism. Letting critically ill children and their families get caught in such a period is not only wrong, it is sick.

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