BOSTON (AP) — Federal immigration authorities are no longer granting special status to foreign nationals seeking to remain in the country for medical treatment or other special circumstances.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in letters issued this month that it’s no longer considering the requests. The only exception is for military members and their families.

Doctors, immigration lawyers and advocates in Boston on Monday criticized the decision as a “death sentence” for families seeking life-saving treatment for children fighting cancer, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other complicated conditions.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman says the policy change was effective Aug. 7.

She says all pending requests are being denied and families are being notified by mail. The agency estimates it receives about 1,000 non-military deferral requests annually.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox