Oct 07, 2022
While welcoming U.S. President Joe Biden's executive action Thursday pardoning Americans convicted of low-level federal marijuana possession offenses, immigrant rights advocates expressed disappointment that the policy does not apply to noncitizens--and hope that the administration will ensure that everyone benefits from the clemency.
"Federal immigration authorities regularly deny green card and citizenship applications due to marijuana possession convictions."
As Common Dreams reported, Biden granted "a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all current U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana," a plant listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the same category as heroin and in a more serious class than cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
While progressives largely applauded Biden's move, many expressed hope and expectation that is was only a first step toward federal decriminalization and, ultimately, legalization of a plant that is legal for recreational or medical use in most states today.
Some called for the inclusion of noncitzens and undocumented people in the policy. The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice tweeted that Biden "says no one should be in jail for just using or possessing marijuana, but fails to include immigrants without status in his pardon."
"It's not the first time the government actively excludes immigrants without status from important decisions or reparations," the advocacy group added.
\u201cMarijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests in our country.\n\nThis is an important step forward, but we must keep pushing for more. Legalize marijuana. Expunge records. Protect undocumented folks. End the war on drugs.\u201d— Cori Bush (@Cori Bush) 1665164663
Although Drug Policy Alliance executive director Kassandra Frederique said Thursday that her group was "thrilled to see President Biden holding true to his commitment to pardon every person with simple marijuana charges at the federal level," she tempered her praise during a Friday interview with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman.
Frederique lamented that "noncitizens were excluded from this, which is really unfortunate, because people who are noncitizens, cannabis is one of the main reasons why people are detained or deported."
"Drug Policy Alliance has learned an incredible amount of the intricacies between immigration policy and drug policy over the last decade," she continued. "And in fact, most people don't realize that our first drug laws were xenophobic immigration policies."
"And so," Frederique added, "this is why Drug Policy Alliance is working with our groups around the country to really figure out how do we continue to push where the president is right now, to a broader conversation that's actually going to bring the necessary material condition changes that our community needs."
\u201cUndocumented immigrants in the U.S. were unjustly excluded from President Biden's pardons for simple possession of marijuana under federal law, says Kassandra Frederique (@Kassandra_Fred) of @DrugPolicyOrg.\u201d— Democracy Now! (@Democracy Now!) 1665157020
Jane Shim, senior policy attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, called Biden's move "one step in addressing" the harms caused by marijuana prohibition, which she said "has devastated poor communities and communities of color for too long."
"However, it is extremely disappointing that the administration went out of its way to exclude undocumented immigrants," she continued. "Furthermore, even immigrants who were pardoned may remain at risk of detention and deportation because of a marijuana offense, thanks to our punitive immigration laws."
"President Biden can and should ensure that marijuana possession convictions do not jeopardize a person's immigration status," Shim argued. "Federal immigration authorities regularly deny green card and citizenship applications due to marijuana possession convictions."
\u201cWe ALSO need to know: What will the Administration do to ensure that those immigrants who are pardoned under the Executive Order will no longer have their immigration status in jeopardy?\u201d— Immigrant Defense Project (@Immigrant Defense Project) 1665088337
Shim noted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "has already deported thousands of people for marijuana possession, and continues to do so today."
"Pardons that clear the way for employment, housing, and educational opportunities will be little solace to families threatened with separation through deportation by ICE," she added.
We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.
We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.
Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.