Tag Archives: immigrants

Marijuana-Related Charges Will Still Be Used to Build Deportation Cases, the Homeland Security Chief Says


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Kevin Lui

Apr 18, 2017

U.S. immigration authorities will continue to enforce federal laws against marijuana and use them as a basis to deport undocumented immigrants, says John Kelly, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security, on Tuesday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “will continue to use marijuana possession, distribution and convictions as essential elements as they build their deportation removal apprehension packages for targeted operations against illegal aliens living in the United States,” Kelly said in a speech at the George Washington University, according to the New York Daily News. “They have done this in the past, are doing it today, and will do it in the future.”

He also toed the hard line on cannabis taken by others in the Trump Administration, calling it “a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs,” reports the Daily News.

Kelly’s latest statement on marijuana and deportation is markedly tougher than earlier comments on the plant’s place in the current administration’s war on drugs, reports NBC News.

On Sunday, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that “marijuana is not a factor in the drug war” when asked about how its legalization could affect the U.S. antinarcotics effort.

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Marijuana may be legal in California, but it could get you deported


Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences of using marijuana at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts.

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By Alejandra Molina | amolina@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise

PUBLISHED: April 14, 2017 at 7:07 pm | UPDATED: April 14, 2017 at 10:31 pm

It’s legal in California, but marijuana possession and use is still a federal offense that could cause serious problems for immigrants in the Golden State.

“It is still a federal offense,” said Inland-based attorney Russell Jauregui. “Federal law controls immigration and thus people will still face severe immigration consequences for marijuana conviction/use.”

Undocumented immigrants can be deported for marijuana consumption in certain circumstances and may risk not being admitted back into the United States if they leave.

Immigrant rights activists and attorneys are reminding immigrants of potential consequences at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up deportation efforts. The White House has said that any immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime, or even suspected of committing a crime, is now an enforcement priority.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, declined to say how the agency deals with immigrants accused or convicted of marijuana crimes in states where it’s legal.

Instead, she reiterated the Department of Homeland Security’s focus on targeting all “removable aliens” who have committed crimes, beginning with those who have been convicted of a criminal offense.

While those who pose a threat to public safety will continue to be a focus, the department will not exempt classes or categories of unauthorized immigrants from potential enforcement, she said.

“All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” Kice said.

That’s why immigrants need to be aware of consequences surrounding marijuana use, advocates said.

“It could happen that people think that now that it’s legalized, that it would be completely safe, but obviously in this era of increasing concern of criminalization, and the fact that the federal government has said it wants to crack down on marijuana on the federal level, we’re really just trying to help inform and be proactive with immigrants of these concerns,” said Angie Junck, a supervising attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a San Francisco-based national nonprofit agency.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February said that federal officials would try to adopt “reasonable policies” for enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws. Sessions has said he believes violence surrounds sales and use of the drug.

California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Nearly half of all of the state’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens and another 26 percent have some sort of legal status, including green cards and visas. It’s estimated that about a quarter of California’s immigrants are undocumented.

In a state where the immigrant population is so vast, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in January 2017 issued a flier that spells out what non-U.S. citizens should and should not do when it comes to marijuana.

It advises non-U.S. citizens not to use marijuana until they are citizens, and not to work in marijuana shops. On top of that, it cautions undocumented immigrants not to leave the house carrying marijuana, a medical marijuana card, paraphernalia, or other accessories such as marijuana T-shirts or stickers. Additionally, they should never have photos, text messages or anything else connecting them to marijuana on their phone or social media accounts.

Most importantly, it advises non-citizen immigrants to never admit to any immigration or border official that they have ever have used or possessed marijuana.

What it boils down to, Junck said, is that immigration law is federal and marijuana use remains a federal offense, as well as grounds for deportation.

Marijuana is still listed as an illegal drug in the Controlled Substance Act and the Immigration and Naturalization Act deems drug trafficking an “aggravated felony,” a type of crime that has been a deportation priority.

Lawful permanent residents can be deported for any drug offense, with the sole exception of a conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

And, undocumented immigrants with a drug conviction can face a lifetime bar from ever gaining legal status. The only exception is a single conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, and by showing extreme hardship to certain family members such as a spouse or children.

However, certain provisions under immigration law don’t always require a conviction in order for a person to be considered for deportation.

“Immigrants need to know that they can still face some consequences if they admit marijuana use to an immigration official,” Junck said.

“The biggest concern is admission to an immigration official,” she said.

Immigration officials can stop and ask people whatever they want; it’s just a question of whether the person decides to respond, Junck said. For example, when coming in from customs at the airport, officials can refer someone to what Junck referred to as secondary inspection.

“They may ask questions and those questions can vary from, ‘What’s your immigration status?’ to ‘Have you committed crimes for which you’ve never been arrested?’” Junck said. “Or maybe there’s a basic question that can be like, ‘Have you ever used marijuana?’”

Immigrant rights activists say the implications of admitting marijuana use are not widely known.

“There is a stigma about marijuana use in Latino immigrant communities and we need to erase that stigma if we are going to talk honestly about the legal repercussions of its use for non-citizens,” said Luis Nolasco, an immigrant rights organizer in the Inland Empire. “This is particularly for the older generation of undocumented parents who may have youth that engages in marijuana use.”

For now, it’s mostly unclear how federal authorities are going to address this legal situation. And in states where marijuana is legal, it’s a topic of serious concern for immigration attorneys and their clients.

“Under the Obama administration, I think it was treated more like a wait-and- see where we’re just going to kind of let this evolve,” said David Kolko, an immigration attorney in Colorado, where marijuana is legal.

“Under the Trump administration, I think people need to be even more cautious because there’s been certainly an impression that enforcement is going to be dealt with more aggressively and if they choose to use this marijuana issue as one enforcement tool, I think many immigrants … could be very vulnerable in terms of being able to stay in this country or move forward on their immigration cases,” Kolko said.

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The order has caused chaos; White House statements haven’t clarified what’s going on.


What Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration Does—and Doesn’t Do

Krishnadev Calamur

Updated on Sunday, January 29, at 4:12 p.m.

President Trump signed on Friday an executive order that severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely. The order has been widely criticized and praised—but it led to massive protests at several airports across the country where people with valid documentation were detained. Legal challenges against those detentions were successful. The administration’s response Sunday only made the situation more unclear.

Here’s what the executive order does and doesn’t do, the challenges to it, and how the Trump administration responded.

Who is not affected?

The executive order applies only to non-U.S. citizens, so anyone with U.S. citizenship—whether that person in natural-born or naturalized—is not affected. But on Sunday, Reince Preibus, the White House chief of staff, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents would have the “discretionary authority” to question U.S. citizens coming from the seven countries. CBP agents have had that authority even before Friday’s executive order.

“I would suspect that if you’re an American citizen traveling back and forth to Libya, you’re likely to be subjected to further questioning when you come into an airport,” he said.

Who is affected?

For 120 days, the order bars the entry of any refugee who is awaiting resettlement in the U.S. It also prohibits all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. until further notice. Additionally, it bans the citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen—from entering the U.S. on any visa category.*

On Saturday this included individuals who are permanent residents of the U.S. (green-card holders) who were traveling overseas to visit family or for work—though a senior administration official said their applications would be considered on a case-by-case basis. The official also said green-card holders from those countries who are in the U.S. will have to meet with a consular officer before leaving the U.S.

News reports suggested the White House overruled the Department of Homeland Security’s recommendations on excluding green-card holders from the executive orders. Preibus, on Meet the Press, denied that, then appeared to suggest that the order won’t affect permanent residents going forward, but when pressed appeared to contradict himself.

“We didn’t overrule the Department of Homeland Security, as far as green-card holders moving forward, it doesn’t affect them,” he said. But when pressed by Chuck Todd, the show’s host, on whether the order affected green-card holders, he replied: “Well, of course it does. If you’re traveling back and forth, you’re going to be subjected to further screening.”

The order also targets individuals of those countries who hold dual citizenship with another country. For instance, an individual who holds both Iraqi and Canadian citizenships—though the U.K. foreign secretary said the U.S. had assured him it didn’t apply to U.K. nationals.

It does not apply to individuals who hold U.S. citizenship along with citizenship of another country—though a CBP agent can presumably question such a person based on his or her discretion.

Why were those seven countries chosen?

Trump had made national security a centerpiece of his election campaign—at one point calling for a “total and complete” ban on all Muslims coming to the U.S. Although the executive order does not do that, Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said on ABC’s This Week that the president “hit the ground running, had a flurry of activity, to do exactly what he said he was going to do.”

Spicer noted that the seven counties put on the list were chosen by the Obama administration. Indeed, it has its roots in the visa-waiver program. The U.S. allows the citizens of more than 30 countries to visit for short stays without a visa under this program. But that visa waiver does not apply if a citizen of an eligible country has visited—with some exceptions—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011—under measures put in place by the Obama administration. Those individuals must apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate. These seven countries are listed under section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) of the U.S. code, and it is this code that Trump’s executive order cited while banning citizens of those nations.

What is the impact?

The number of permanent residents from these countries is relatively small. For instance, 1,016,518 green cards were issued in 2014. Of these, 19,153 went to Iraqis and 11,615 to Iranians, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s data. These two countries make up the overwhelming majority of U.S. permanent residents from among the seven nations, which together have 500,000 permanent resident in the U.S., according to ProPublica. But the seven nations, as I reported this week, also account for 40 percent of U.S. refugee intake.

Numbers, however, seldom tell the whole story. There have been multiple reports since the executive order was signed of people being prevented from boarding flights; refugees, who had gone through the years-long process before being approved to come to the U.S., stranded in third countries; of Iraqis who had worked for years with the U.S. military being denied entry; of Iranian students stuck overseas; of U.S. tech companies recalling its foreign workers because of the possible impact. And there have been protests against the order at airports across the country, including at New York’s JFK International Airport and Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. , and the Los Angeles International Airport where lawyers, demonstrators, and the media descended to witness the order’s impact.    

Is this a Muslim ban?

Technically, no. The ban includes seven majority Muslim countries, but by no means are these states the most populous Muslim countries, nor are they among the top sources of Muslim immigration to the U.S., nor have they produced terrorists in the same numbers as other Muslim countries not on the list. Indeed, Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and other countries can still visit the U.S.

Still, advocacy groups challenging the order say a Muslim ban is precisely what it amounts to. Indeed, they cited former the words New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments Saturday on Fox News. Giuliani said that Trump had asked for a “Muslim ban,” but one that was done legally. He said he and a panel of experts “focused on, instead of religion, danger.”

“The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis,” he said. “Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible.”

He went onto say the ban was “not based on religion.”

“It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country,” he said.

“What we’ve seen here is stunning,” David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration lawyer who is a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said on a conference call Saturday with reporters. “No president ever ever has used the authority and statute of the law to ban people based on their religion, ban people based on their nationality.”

He said President Carter’s ban on Iranians in 1980 after the Islamic revolution “barred certain classifications, not the whole country.”

Is there legal action?

Yes. Judges in four cities—Alexandria, Virginia; Boston; New York; and Seattle—ruled against the detention of individuals at airports—in cases filed by the ACLU and others. The rulings appear to be limited to those people already at U.S. airports or in transit. They do not appear to say anything about the legality of the president’s actions. DHS said it would comply with the orders—and some,but not all, of the people being detained at airports were allowed to leave.

The rulings were in response to legal challenges filed Saturday by the ACLU on behalf of two Iraqis who were detained at JFK Airport. The group also filed what’s known as a motion for class certification, which would allow it to represent others who say they were detained at airports and other ports of entry to the U.S. But there may be challenges ahead.

Indeed, Trump has broad discretion under the law to bar a class of person deemed detrimental to the U.S. from entering the country. Leopold, the immigration lawyer, said the issue will have to be resolved by the courts.

“The problem we’ve got there,” Leopold said, “ is that this is unprecedented.”


* This article originally states that the ban did not extend to non-Muslims from the seven countries; the ban extends to all citizens of those countries. We regret the error.

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Clarification: Private Prisons-Immigrants story


(AP) – Sep 24, 2012

 

MIAMI (AP) — In a story Aug. 2, The Associated Press reported that three private prison companies in the U.S. have spent at least $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists in the last decade, and that the number of illegal immigrants detained rose sharply during that period. The story said the prison companies’ PACs and employees gave to congressional leaders who control how much taxpayer money goes to run the nation’s detention centers and who influence private sector contracts.

The story quoted spokesmen for Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group Inc. as denying their lobbying and donations were aimed at influencing immigration policy, and one of them as saying that the goal was to acquaint new lawmakers with the industry, but the story did not fully describe the issues. The companies say they expressly prohibit their lobbyists from working to pass or oppose immigration legislation.

The AP also reported that at the state level, the companies’ lobbying money “generally went to states along the border, such as Florida and Texas, which have high numbers of immigrants, as well as states such as Georgia and Louisiana, where large numbers of immigrants also are detained.” The story should have noted that those states also have a significant number of private prisons that are not intended solely for illegal immigrants.

The story also said that private facilities housing illegal immigrants have little federal oversight but did not elaborate. The AP found that while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a monitor at 52 public and private facilities housing about 84 percent of all detained immigrants, those individual monitors can be responsible for up to 1,800 immigrants apiece, and there are still about 200 smaller facilities that have no monitor. Also, the agency’s internal inspectors have criticized ICE for giving private prison operators advance warning of federal inspections.

The companies say they must meet stringent federal reporting requirements and say they go even further.

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