Pankaj Satija and Monika Ummat,
Doctors Pankaj Satija, right, and his wife Monika Ummat, center, talk to media about their immigration case. Photo courtesy: Houston Chronicle.

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Two prominent Houston doctors facing removal by immigration officials to their native India have been granted a temporary, 90-day stay while they sort out the appropriate paperwork that will allow them to continue living and working legally in the U.S.

The married couple, Pankaj Satija and Monika Ummat, are both neurologists and face removal Thursday after immigration officials denied their request to stay in the U.S. at the last minute, potentially jeopardizing the medical care of dozens of patients who have specialized surgeries scheduled with the two doctors in coming weeks.

It’s just the latest example in a series of incidents where the government has taken an unusually hard line on immigration, refusing to address cases on an individual basis.

“I have 50 patients today and 40 patients tomorrow,” Dr. Satija, a neurologist who helped found the Pain and Headache Centers of Texas, told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m just concerned they’ll be left in a lurch. They could land up in the emergency room.”

Satija and his wife have been in the U.S. legally for more than a decade, the couple moved west from India to do research and complete their medical residencies. The Houston Methodist Hospital System sponsored Satija for his green card around 2008 and the Labor Department certified that no Americans could perform his job in 2010.

Because of backlog in the system and rules limiting the amount of immigrants who can actually receive permanent residency each year, Satija and Ummat were provided a provisional status until their green cards become available.The category for India is currently so behind that only immigrants who applied for the labor certification before June 2008 are receiving their green cards.

Satija and his wife, who herself is a neurologist specializing in epilepsy at Texas Children’s Hospital, renewed their temporary work authorizations and their traveling credentials every two years as required. They bought a house in West University Place and had two children, Ralph, who is 7, and 4-year-old Zooey.

The first sign of issue came roughly a year ago when their travel documents were issued for only one year, unlike the typical period of two years, similar to their employment authorization.

In two expansive immigration memos the Trump administration issued in February, it directed the nation’s three main immigration agencies to “sparingly” use the practice of parole, though it hasn’t yet detailed the new regulations. The Satijas had appealed to Customs and Border Protection to extend their temporary permission for at least a few weeks so they can reschedule all their surgeries and arrange for their children to skip school.

“There’s been a technical error made here and our situation is completely an oversight, an error made in innocence,” Satija said. “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.”

If they are removed, the Satijas will be able to return — but it could take weeks. Tuesday Satija has a surgery to remove hardware from a woman’s spine.