Immigrants who use marijuana or who work in the cannabis industry can be denied citizenship, even if they are doing so in states where it is legal, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday
The guidance, issued – coincidentally or not – just before pot advocates' national celebration of their 4/20 holiday, confirming what immigration and marijuana advocates have been legalized is a legal gray area that would penalize be citizens because they have broken a federal law.
Although recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 states and decriminalized in 14 more, it is still classified as an illegal substance federally.
“The policy guidance… clarifies that Applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws, "the guidance states.
Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) sent a letter to US Attorney General William P. Asks him to clarify and adjust policy that threatens permanent residents' path to citizenship if they have worked in the marijuana industry. Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, in 2012. The expansion of marijuana used beyond the medical sciences has cultivated a retail retail cannabis industry in the state.
In his letter, Hancock wrote:
This week, with two legal immigrants – one from Lithuania, another from El Salvador – who have lived here for more than two decades. They have graduated from our schools. They have paid their taxes. They are working to achieve the American dream and comply with the processes in place to become a part of our great society, but were denied naturalization because of their cannabis industry employment. [Denver] understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents. However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like the Denver residents have been denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.
The war on drugs has disproportionately hurt communities of color, this is just another example of that, said Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. But this is particularly noteworthy of the Trump administration's view on immigration than drug policy.
“Taking a step back, this has nothing to do with cannabis prosecute immigrant communities, ”Collins said. "They see cannabis as a ripe opportunity for persecuting these individuals." "The Trump administration has used the war on drugs since the beginning to go after migrant populations," Collins added, pointing to President Trump's rationale that a border wall would Keeping drugs out of the country and his blaming or migrants for the opioid epidemic.
In an emailed statement, USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins said the agency is "required to adjudicate cases based on federal law. Individuals who commit federally controlled substance violations face potential immigration consequences under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which applies to all foreign nationals regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which they reside. ”
During the Obama administration, the federal government eased up on enforcing federal laws against marijuana, allowing states to chart their own paths on the issue. In January 2018, Jeff Sessions, while he was attorney general, rescinded that policy, arguing that it was his job to enforce federal laws.
Immigration lawyers have been told how the Trump era drug policy would affect legal residents seeking citizenship. Kathy Brady, a senior staff lawyer with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told the Associated Press that she advised people to avoid work in the marijuana industry until the federal law changes.
“Even if you had a green card for 20 years , marijuana, "Brady said.
In California, which started licensing the sale and production of recreational marijuana last year, the state sent a notice in February warning. noncitizens that they can suffer negative immigration consequences if they work with marijuana.
The Trump administration has now confirmed that is true.