U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers (USCIS) issued steering Friday that would forestall inexperienced card holders from turning into U.S. residents if they’re suspected of partaking in marijuana use — even in states and jurisdictions the place it’s authorized.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized leisure marijuana for adults.
Non-citizens residing in these areas might consider that utilizing marijuana is not going to damage their immigration standing, however that affordable assumption is wrong. This USCIS steering establishes “violation of federal managed substance legislation, together with for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is mostly a bar to establishing [good moral character] for naturalization even the place the conduct wouldn’t be a violation of state legislation.”
The steering isn’t essentially new. As a result of marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and possession of it’s nonetheless a federal offense, USCIS officers should take it into consideration when reviewing an software. Prior to now, for instance, guests to the USA have misplaced their vacationer visas after company officers checked their telephone and located photographs of them in entrance of marijuana dispensaries.
What’s new is that this follow is now codified into USCIS steering — explicitly telling officers that even when there isn’t any drug conviction, and even when the particular person has not admitted to the offense, they need to think about denying the case primarily based on good ethical character.
“I’m afraid that what occurred immediately signifies that a lot worse stuff goes to occur within the immigration context,” Kathy Brady, senior workers lawyer at Immigrant Authorized Useful resource Middle, advised ThinkProgress. “It’s been slightly bit remoted on how they ding immigrants for stuff like this, however now that it’s within the handbook I concern that it’ll be seen as type of a mandate.”
The Immigrant Authorized Useful resource Middle has for years warned about this very downside, issuing advisories warning their shoppers to avoid marijuana till they’re a U.S. citizen, to take away any textual content or photographs regarding marijuana from their social media accounts and telephone, and to by no means focus on conduct involving marijuana with immigration, border, consular, or legislation enforcement authorities.
“I inform my shoppers that even once they get their inexperienced playing cards, they can’t go to a dispensary, they can’t work in a dispensary, they can’t have something to do with marijuana regardless that it’s authorized [where they live],” Aaron Corridor, an immigration lawyer primarily based in Aurora, Colorado — the place leisure marijuana has been authorized since 2014 — advised ThinkProgress.
This locks out inexperienced holders and different non-citizens from one in every of Colorado’s quickest rising industries. In the USA, the marijuana trade has created greater than 211,00 jobs, based on a Leafly research. Non-citizens employed within the marijuana trade may very well be labeled an “illicit trafficker” and be made eligible for deportation.
“And there are not any warnings to them about that,” Corridor added. “They’d do not know, as a result of they’ll simply stroll into the store and every part is above board and they’d do not know until they’ve occurred to speak to an immigration lawyer about it.”
The identical applies to non-citizens who’ve been approved by a health care provider to legally use medical marijuana to deal with ache or different power sicknesses.
“I’m in contact with a girl who actually wants medical marijuana to take care of ache upkeep. She bought in a automobile accident, they tried to provide her opioids, and she or he nearly died. [USCIS] is refusing to naturalize her as a result of she’s utilizing marijuana so she’s committing a federal act,” Brady mentioned.
One strategy to handle this problem is to take away marijuana from being a Schedule 1 drug on a federal stage. As a Schedule 1 drug (alongside heroin), marijuana is taken into account by the federal authorities to haven’t any medical worth and a excessive potential for abuse.
Although particular person states have taken up the the problem to legalize marijuana, federal authorities coverage remains to be lagging behind and in lots of instances nonetheless trumps state legislation. Congress can reschedule marijuana, as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed within the Marijuana Justice Act — however a Republican majority within the Senate and the Trump administration’s hardline stance on drug enforcement doesn’t bode effectively for that legislative path.