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Iowa DACA Recipient Slated for Deportation Over One Gram of Weed

Luis Quintana Alvarez was brought to the United States when he was 11 months old. Now 18, his entire life is being torn apart because of $10 of pot.

by Zach Harris

There’s been a lot of news, protests and calls to Congress concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program since Donald Trump announced last week that he would move to end the Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. And while Congress still has the opportunity to save the program, one Iowa teen has already been stripped of his DACA status, and entire life, because of one gram of weed.

According to a heart-wrenching report from Rekha Basu at the Des Moines Register, Luis Quintana Alvarez, an 18 year-old Iowan who was brought to America when he was 11 months old, was in a car with his cousin, an American born college student, when they were stopped for speeding. To shield his cousin from any scholastic consequences, Quintana professed ownership of the single gram of marijuana that happened to be in the car, figuring that the penalty would be minor and no damage would be done. He was dead wrong.

Not only was Quintana, a newly minted adult, arrested for possession and given a year of probation, but the case raised flags at the federal level, and the high school student is now slated for impending deportation over that one measly gram of weed. The same bag is sold for $10 at pot shops in legal states across the country. 

Under DACA program standards, recipients are only ineligible if they are convicted of a “felony, significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors.” Still, Quintana’s DACA status has somehow been revoked. Ta-Yu Yang, Quintana’s lawyer, has appealed the ruling, arguing that the Immigration and Naturalization Act specifically makes an exception for the simple possession of marijuana, and yet the appeal was still denied.

"My world would just be over," Quintana told Basu on the phone from jail last week.  "...I would feel like a foreigner because I've been here in America all my life. I pledged allegiance from kindergarten to 12th grade." 

"I really don't understand how they could want to deport me, who has been here all his life, over a small amount of marijuana," he said.

The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason. Quintana is one more victim in the Trump administration's unfounded, racially motivated war on immigration that is only slated to target more people like Luis. Yang is currently fighting Quintana’s deportation with the Board of Immigration Appeals, but like with the previous attempts, he’s not holding his breath.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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