Two Indian doctors in Houston have been granted a 90-day window to get their immigration papers in order failing which they will be deported, reported Houston Chronicle. On March 28, United States immigration officials had refused to extend the couple’s temporary stay permission, saying, “Somebody up there has decided you have to leave the country in the next 24 hours.”
However, the administration has now granted them an extension on humanitarian grounds. Neurologists Dr Pankaj Satija and Dr Monika Ummat have been in the US legally for 15 years. Although they had applied for green cards in 2008, the couple have not yet got them because of procedural red tape. Currently, those who had applied for green cards before June 2008 still have not receiving them, according to Houston Chronicle. Satija and his wife have been renewing their temporary work permits and travel documents every two years.
They started having problems surface last year when their travel documents were renewed for only for one year. Besides this, the Customs and Border Protection stamp read that their travel document expired in June this year while US Citizenship and Immigration Services contradictorily said that it had become invalid in June 2016.
The discrepancy, however, went unnoticed. In October last year, a Customs and Border Protection official at the airport had pointed it out when they arrived from India. “The officer looked at it and said it’s a common mistake, that it was no big deal,” said Satija.
They immediately applied for advanced parole, which allows immigrants who are waiting for their green cards, to travel out of the country while their applications are still being processed. On March 27, the couple was told that advanced parole has been approved and that the paperwork was being processed. However, on March 29, Customs and Border Protection officials informed them that a new policy was in place and that their temporary stay permit cannot be extended.
The decision of the immigration officials, which once again reiterated the government’s hard line on immigrants and migrants, is likely to affect score of patients in Houston. The neurologist couple had several surgeries lined up in the coming weeks. “I’m just concerned they’ll be left in a lurch. They could land up in the emergency room,” said Dr Satija.
Satija was one of the key persons behind the foundation of Pain and Headache Centers of Texas. In 2010, the Labor Department had certified that no Americans could perform his job. Meanwhile, Dr Ummat specialises in epilepsy at Texas Children’s Hospital.
The couple’s lawyer, Gordan Quan, said the incident highlights the rigidity of the system. “These are not criminals, not a threat to society,” he said. “It’s just the rigidity of the system ... and instead of trying to work with people, the new administration is just trying to force them out, no matter what,” he told Houston Chronicle.