Bay Area Medical Community Protests Possible Deportation of Patient Receiving Lifesaving Treatment

Maria Isabel Bueso (center) and nurse Wendy Bloom (right) share a warm moment just after Bueso spoke at a rally at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland on Sept. 6, 2019, where she receives weekly care.  (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

Dozens of nurses, doctors and immigrant advocates rallied Friday outside USCF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland in support of a 24-year-old undocumented Bay Area resident with a debilitating genetic disease who is at risk of being deported back to her native Guatemala.

Maria Isabel Bueso, who goes by Isabel, has an extremely rare condition known as Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome that confines her to a wheelchair and requires that she use a medical device to breathe. She currently relies on weekly treatments at the hospital.

Bueso, who lives in Concord with her family, arrived in the U.S. when she was just 7. Through "deferred action," an Obama-era temporary humanitarian relief program, she has been able to remain here legally, renewing her status every few years.

But in August, after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it was no longer considering deferred action for non-military requestors, authorities ordered Bueso and her family to leave the country by mid-September or face deportation.

On Monday, however, the agency shifted course again, saying it would reopen certain pending cases of immigrants, particularly those with severe medical conditions.

Participants in Friday's rally said that regardless of whether the federal government walks back its policy, it's important to keep fighting for the rights of Bueso and other immigrants who depend on medical care in the U.S.

Students from the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program hold signs in support of Maria Isabel Bueso during Friday's rally at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

"I have formed deep, deep bonds with our immigrant communities over the years," said Diane Oviatt, a nurse at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, who has cared for Bueso, and was joined by other members of the California Nurses Association.

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"We are outraged by the way they are being treated by our government, and we will fight for their absolute right to a quality life and [for] our right to facilitate that by continuing to lovingly care for the whole family.

Bueso appeared alongside nurses at the rally and said it was an "honor" to receive so much support from her community.

"My hope is that a solution will come out of this," she said. "And I’ll keep resharing this story with everyone to make sure this problem gets resolved."

In a statement, Bueso's family said that news of the recent reconsideration was encouraging:

Bueso (left) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta on Sept. 6, 2019 in front of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, just before Bueso addresses a crowd of supporters. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

"We see this as a first step in revisiting our status as U.S. residents and will be working with our local representatives to find a more permanent solution that guarantees Isabel's life is never put at risk again."

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is expected to hold a hearing Wednesday on the Trump administration's policy on humanitarian protections for immigrants in need of medical treatment in the U.S.

Bueso plans to travel to Washington, D.C., for the hearing and is expected to testify before lawmakers about the importance of the medical care she and other immigrants receive.

Students from the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program hold banners in support of undocumented immigrant patients during Friday's rally at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)