Previous marijuana use is not going to be carried out in opposition to immigrants with the proposed invoice

A Pennsylvania representative has passed legislation to remove the issue of cannabis from application forms designed to determine the “good moral character” of immigrants.

In April 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) consolidated their stance on marijuana use. In policy guidelines, the agency made it clear that participating in cannabis-related “activities” can exclude immigrants from the citizenship process, regardless of whether the “activities” took place in a state or country where marijuana is fully legal.

In the brief memo, the agency notes that any “violation of federal controlled substances law, including marijuana, found by conviction or licensing is generally an obstacle to establishing GMC (good moral character) for naturalization even if the behavior did not take place it would be a violation of state law. “

During pre-naturalization applications – the process of obtaining citizenship in the United States – immigrants are required to build a personal story with “good moral character”. However, according to USCIS, marijuana use is not just an immoral crime – working for a pharmacy in an adult-use state is enough to destroy any hopes of citizenship.

The memo also clarifies that an immigrant “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” may be lacking GMC (good moral character) if they are found to have violated federal law, even if those activities are under applicable law State or foreign law is not unlawful “as working in a legal adult cannabis market in a state.

When the memo was first published, both state officials and cannabis activists criticized the policy. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) stated, “Cannabis has been legal in Colorado for 5 years. Working in a legal industry against a person seeking citizenship is a great example of why we need to harmonize our state and federal laws to ensure that states like Colorado have chosen to legalize cannabis Acting in our own authority can expand and regulate our cannabis industry. “

By the time the memo was published, there were already several reports of people being denied full citizenship for participating in state-legal marijuana facilities. Oswaldo Barrientos, who came to the United States with his mother as a baby over three decades ago, is a victim of such circumstances. During a citizenship interview in Fall 2018, Oswaldo was surprised by specific questions about his work in a Colorado pharmacy.

Little did he know that answering the immigration officer would result in a denial of citizenship. Barrientos said, “From that second on I was trapped. I was led on a path to admit in my interview that I broke the law, that I willingly knew that I broke the law. “

Weeks after the interview, Oswaldo received his letter of rejection. The reasoning included: Working in a legal marijuana dispensary in Colorado explains a lack of “good moral character”. In an attempt to justify the policy, the agency states, “The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under federal law means that certain behaviors regarding marijuana that violate the CSA will continue to be a conditional barrier to GMC ( good morals) character) for naturalization entitlement, even if such an activity does not constitute a criminal offense under state law. “

While many politicians viewed the memo as merely a further strengthening of then-President Trump’s immigration policy, cannabis activists noted a link between the surveillance of marijuana and the destruction of black and brown lives. Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance stated, “The cruel treatment of immigrants for crimes related to something as small as marijuana is an example of this path [the Trump] The government has used the war on drugs to persecute color communities. It also shows that following a federal state-to-state approach to politics does not work for these communities. A federal shutdown is essential. “

Regardless of the intent behind the policy, lawmakers have been working to implement a change.

Marijuana use would not affect the “good moral character” of immigrants under the New Bill

In response to USCIS ‘immigration policy, a group of ten senators wrote to Kevin McAleenan and William Barr, who were directors of the Department of Homeland Security and Justice at the time, urging them to change the application process and people who are in legal cannabis markets work to enable this to acquire citizenship.

This letter followed an initial statement signed by 43 House members and chaired by Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Kelly Armstrong (D-ND). The legislature wrote, “As you know, over 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes. The implementation of a directive aimed at naturalization applicants based solely on their legal employment in this industry therefore leads to legal conflicts with more than two-thirds of the American states and territories. “

Regarding the purpose of the letter, Rep. Armstrong stated, “Thirty-four states across the country have some form of legalized marijuana. The federal government is punishing people for working in a legal profession in these states. That is a terrible public order. With this bipartisan letter we urge the DHS and the DOJ to respect the established expectations of cannabis. “

Despite ongoing pressure from legislators, the supposedly crooked immigration policy persists. But if Rep. Brendan Boyle’s (D-PA) efforts count for anything, it won’t be the case for long.

He has tabled a bill to amend the Immigration and Citizenship Act that does not allow officials to consider marijuana use, possession and distribution to determine whether someone is of “good moral character”. In addition, the bill would also raise a controversial question related to past alcohol consumption: “Have you ever been an ordinary drinker?”

“These questions have nothing to do with citizenship,” said Rep. Boyle. “In addition, potential citizens should not be punished for relatively harmless and non-criminal acts. This sloppy language only serves to reinforce social stigmatization and misunderstandings about substance abuse, and it is time to modernize the process. “

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