Because the Trump administration continues escalating its assaults on immigrants, federal officers lately denied citizenship to 2 immigrants solely as a result of they labored in Colorado’s authorized marijuana business. The transfer has shortly turn into controversial, as activists and progressive lawmakers fear that the federal authorities would possibly start utilizing hashish legal guidelines in weed-legal states as a pretext for concentrating on immigrants.
Immigrants in Denver Denied Citizenship
In current weeks, two immigrants residing in Denver had been denied citizenship. And in each instances, immigration officers cited the identical cause: each had labored in Colorado’s authorized marijuana business.
One of many immigrants denied citizenship is from Lithuania. Thus far, this particular person’s title has not been made public attributable to considerations over their present employment standing.
The opposite is 30-year-old Oswaldo Barrientos, who presently works as cultivation supervisor at The Dab, a completely authorized hashish firm in Denver.
Barrientos found his curiosity for hashish when his mom was recognized with Stage three melanoma pores and skin most cancers. Within the wake of her prognosis, he mentioned he instantly started researching medical marijuana.
“I studied and skim every little thing I may,” he instructed Excessive Occasions. “I simply actually noticed the medicinal worth hashish holds and I really imagine in it. That’s what catapulted me into the business.”
Entrapped by USCIS?
A resident and Inexperienced Card holder, Barrientos has lived in the US since he was one, when his mom immigrated to the U.S. from her native El Salvador.
In November 2018, as a part of his citizenship utility, Barrientos accomplished an interview with officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Companies (USCIS). Main as much as this interview, Barrientos mentioned he aced all of the checks required for citizenship. And for essentially the most half, the interview went nicely, too.
However then issues took an sudden flip. In response to Barrientos and his attorneys, on the finish of the interview, USCIS officers out of the blue made him learn quite a few paperwork, together with issues just like the authorized definition of a Schedule I substance and what qualifies as felony manufacturing and distribution of unlawful substances.
They then probed him on his work at The Dab. By the top of the interview, Barrientos mentioned, the USCIS officers had mainly compelled him to admit to breaking federal drug legal guidelines.
“That a part of the interview, it’s what I name primarily entrapment,” Bryce Downer of Novo Authorized Group and certainly one of Barrientos’ attorneys instructed Excessive Occasions.
Then, on February 7, 2019, Barrientos obtained a letter from USCIS informing him that he was not eligible for citizenship.
“Due to your admission concerning a managed substance violation,” the letter mentioned, “you’re unable to reveal that you’re a particular person of fine ethical character; subsequently, you’re ineligible for naturalization presently.”
What’s Subsequent for Barrientos
Barrientos mentioned he, his household, and his neighborhood had been shocked when he obtained the letter.
“I used to be shocked and somewhat scared. I used to be questioning does this imply I’m going to get deported?” he instructed Excessive Occasions. “I by no means thought I’d be put in a scenario like this. I match the outline of what an immigrant ought to seem like after they’re making use of for citizenship.”
He defined: “I pay my taxes 12 months in and 12 months out. I’ve zero felony file, I went into the interview assuming that I used to be a shoo-in. I’ve by no means damaged the regulation in any means or been arrested. After which hastily they’re placing me in a bracket the place to the feds I’m distributing and manufacturing a Schedule I drug.”
Presently, Barrientos is just not being charged with against the law. However Downer mentioned that the denial of citizenship may make Barrientos weak to future detention or prosecution. Specifically, if Barrientos travels outdoors the nation, officers may detain him when he re-enters the U.S.
“What they’re doing is teeing him up for future prosecution by the enforcement arm of immigration,” Downer instructed Excessive Occasions. “They’re doing this with a watch targeted on prosecution.”
Barrientos and his attorneys mentioned they plan to enchantment the choice. Moreover, they mentioned they’d think about taking their case to federal courtroom if needed.
Is The Federal Authorities Utilizing Authorized Grey Space to Goal Immigrants?
The scenario in Denver is elevating some alarming questions. One of many greatest is that if the federal authorities will start utilizing the authorized grey space of state hashish legal guidelines as a pretext for going after immigrants.
Principally, that grey space exists within the confusion between federal legal guidelines and state regulation. On the one hand, hashish stays unlawful on the federal stage. However on the opposite, it’s authorized in a rising variety of states, together with Colorado.
To make issues worse, there may be confusion amongst federal businesses. Most notably, between the Division of Justice (DOJ) and the Division of Homeland Safety (DHS).
Traditionally, the DOJ has largely adopted a coverage of not meddling in state marijuana legal guidelines. In the meantime, the DHS is seemingly taking a really totally different method, citing because it did in Denver federal hashish legal guidelines as grounds for denying citizenship.
“It’s only a twin message,” Downer instructed Excessive Occasions. “You may have the DOJ which is saying one factor in regards to the authorized hashish business after which you could have the Division of Homeland Safety saying one other. And it’s solely to the bias of immigrants.”
“This isn’t an anti-cannabis transfer. It’s an anti-immigrant transfer.”
Now, many worry that immigration businesses will use federal hashish legal guidelines as a authorized pretext to focus on, harass, and prosecute immigrants residing in weed-legal states.
“That is form of an extension of the present technique by this administration of placing up any and all roadblocks to maintain folks from changing into residents” Cristian Solano-Córdova, Communications Supervisor at Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, instructed Excessive Occasions.
“This looks as if a continuation of that, searching for any and all attainable methods to restrict authorized immigration. This isn’t an anti-cannabis transfer. It’s an anti-immigrant transfer.”
Thus far, USCIS officers insist they’re merely following federal regulation. They are saying their determination to disclaim citizenship to the 2 Denver residents stems from considerations over federal hashish legal guidelines, not a crackdown on immigrants.
However for a lot of, this narrative isn’t very convincing.
“If the chief department is so intent on upholding federal regulation, you’ll see the usattorney’s workplace prosecuting each marijuana enterprise proprietor, everyone who labored within the business,” Aaron Elinoff, Barrientos’ different legal professional, lately instructed The Denver Submit. “However they’re not. As an alternative, they’re merely concentrating on immigrants.”