Dr. Pankaj Satija and Dr. Monika Ummat, two prominent Houston-based doctors, potentially faced deportation after immigration officials refused to extend their stay in the USA due to errors in their paperwork. Ultimately, the doctors were granted 90 more days in the country on humanitarian grounds.
The doctors, who are married and have legally lived in the United States for more than a decade, potentially face a life-altering uprooting of their entire neurology practices. "I have 50 patients today and 40 patients tomorrow," said Dr. Satija, who had previously helped found the Pain and Headache Centers of Texas, to The Houston Chronicle. "I'm just concerned they'll be left in a lurch. They could land up in the emergency room."
The doctors were presented with a terrifying reality: immigration paperwork is so backlogged that people from India who applied for labor certification in 2008 are only now getting their green cards. After a handful of paperwork mix-ups, errors, and accidents, the doctors realized they were only going to be able to stay in America for a short period of time if drastic measures were not taken. "Somebody up there has decided you have to leave the country in the next 24 hours," an agent told the two at one point, despite pending documents.
"There's been a technical error made here and our situation is completely an oversight, an error made in innocence," said Satija. "But taking me and Monika away from our patients right now jeopardizes so much for the citizens of this country. We understand we need to take care of this but that should allow them to give us some time."
The couple's problems are most certainly related to Trump's orders on immigration, which vaguely state that certain forms of parole should be used "sparingly."
"These are not tough decisions. These are not criminals, not a threat to society," said the doctors' lawyer Gordan Quan, condemning Trump's policies. "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."
Ultimately, the doctors were given a short opportunity to continue staying in the country and get their documentation sorted out, which is no small task considering their busy schedules and the slow pace at which immigration offices move. What difficulties they may face on the path to a more permanent residence remain unclear.
[Photo: Getty Images]
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