The Washington Post reported May 21 on a Colombian woman working in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., whose one-year au pair visa is expiring. She is being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and says, “If I go back to Colombia, I’m going to die.”
This report is unusual for both the facts and the unanswered questions.
The facts as reported are:
- The 28-year-old au pair has a law degree and came on the au pair visa to improve her English.
- Her employer is an immigration attorney who has been working unsuccessfully to get the au pair agency to extend her visa for other year. He is now trying to get her a different visa to cover her stay for medical care.
- Her employer used to be an aide for Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia and lost a visiting sister there from injuries she sustained after being thrown from a horse. Inadequate medical care was partly to blame for her death, he claims. Rep. Farr has also weighed in to try to get the au pair visa extended.
- The au pair agency cites long-standing policy for not requesting a one-year extension of her visa that expires next month basing it on the well-being of the child the au pair is caring for (and, perhaps, liability issues).
- The Colombian is receiving outpatient medical care from the National Institutes of Health, which includes drugs circulated by a portable chemotherapy pump she wears.
The questions that the reader would like to have had the journalist answer are:
- Is it true that the woman would not be able to continue to receive treatment in Colombia? What would the Colombian embassy have replied?
- What are the resources of the woman (whose parents have visited her during her stay as an au pair)? Could she pay for treatment in Colombia if it is available?
- What is the medical prognosis? Is this a short-term or extended treatment?
- On what basis is the NIH providing this treatment to the au pair – presumably at U.S. taxpayer expense?
The answers to these questions might clarify whether this is truly a humanitarian situation that warrants an extension of her visa, or whether this is a situation in which the extensive influence – including the reporting of the Washington Post – is being exerted to preclude her having to return to Colombia. These answers would also inform whether the medical resources of the NIH are legitimately provided to nonimmigrants and on what basis.
I think most readers would like to know whether it is true the woman would be sent to her death if she had to leave, or is it just that she is receiving free medical care that she wishes to continue to receive?