A bill introduced by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. recently would remove possession of cannabis as grounds for deportation under federal law. Under the bill, the Remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act (S. 2021), the offenses for which an undocumented immigrant could be deported would be amended. The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey in June and in the House last month with an identical companion bill from fellow Democrat Assistant Speaker Ray Ben Luján of New Mexico.
“This Administration’s efforts to use marijuana possession as a tool for deportation is misguided and does not make our communities safer,” said Booker in a press release. “Limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on deporting people for something two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing. This legislation will remove another one of ICE’s weapons that have been deployed to execute this Administration’s hardline immigration policy.”
Why This Bill is Necessary
With the bill, the Immigration and Nationality Act would be amended, adding the phrase “other than the distribution of marijuana” to the section that defines “illicit trafficking in a controlled substance” as an offense that warrants the deportation of an undocumented immigrant.
The measure also adds that “any offenses involving the use, possession, or distribution of marijuana shall not be considered as grounds of inadmissibility.” The bill would also allow immigrants who have been deported or denied a visa to reapply for admission to the country or have their visa reissued.
“The Trump administration’s decision to use marijuana as a weapon against our immigrant communities is despicable,” said Luján. “The federal government should not be wasting resources to wreak havoc on immigrant families when there are children held in border camps that are desperate for legal services, hygiene products, and basic humanitarian care. Providing care for these children and families should be where the Trump administration devotes its funding—not working as a deportation force.”
“I’m proud to be fighting for this legislation to hold President Trump accountable and defend our immigrant communities from senseless and hateful policies,” he added.
More than 34,000 immigrants were deported between 2007 and 2012 for marijuana possession, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Since President Trump rescinded guidelines that listed misdemeanor offenders and cannabis convictions as a low priority, the crisis has worsened, according to Luján’s office. He adds that “this anti-immigrant agenda from the Trump administration stands in contrast to the policies of dozens of states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and possession.”