Immigrant Denied Re-Entry Into US After Admitting to Smoking Weed
A DACA recipient who’s been living in the US since he was a kid wasn’t allowed back in the US simply because he said he smoked weed in the distant past.
Published on July 29, 2019

Since marijuana is federally illegal, immigrants in the US shouldn’t work in the weed industry, even in legal states. In the case of one California man, immigrants also shouldn't admit to using the plant in the past, no matter how long it's been since they toked.

As reported by the Los Angeles Daily News, Jose Palomar, 26, was denied re-entry into the US after his interview with an official from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Palomar had initially traveled to Mexico to finalize his US citizenship application, but he’s still stuck south of the border.

“I admitted to have used [marijuana] in the past,” Palomar told the Los Angeles Daily News. “I was told by my lawyer that during the process in Juarez to speak about nothing but the truth as it would hurt me to lie. So, I was honest, but apparently it still affected my case."

“Right now, I’m in a strange world,” he said.

Palomar was illegally brought to the US when he was 6-years-old. He grew up in Anaheim, California, and in 2012 he applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that grants legal residency status for immigrants who were undocumented when they arrived in America as children. DACA recipients are eligible for a path to citizenship, so long as they aren’t convicted of serious crimes and are exemplary members of their communities.

And although Palomar built a life in Southern California — he has a wife, two kids, and a career — he may not be able to return to it any time soon. Or ever. While recreational marijuana is legal in California, and has been since 2016, the plant remains illegal at the federal level; the federal government oversees all immigration policies and procedures.

“He’s an American… He doesn’t know anything about Mexico,” Palomar’s wife, Christine, said to the Los Angeles Daily News. “This is crazy this is happening.”

While Obama wasn’t a terribly immigrant-friendly president – more people were deported under Obama’s watch than under Clinton and George W. Bush’s combined – the Trump Administration has been especially hostile toward immigrants and foreign visitors who have any involvement with weed.

In April, ABC News reported that two immigrants living in Colorado, one born in El Salvador and the other in Europe, both had their US citizenship applications denied by USCIS because they worked in the state’s legal weed industry.

On April 19 – right before the holidaze of 4/20 – USCIS clarified its anti-weed policy on its Twitter account. Regarding marijuana, USCIS essentially stated that anyone handling, selling, or smoking weed lacked “good moral character.”

Late last year, news outlets reported that US border officials were asking Canadian travelers if they had recently consumed cannabis. Anyone answering “yes” was denied entry into the US, despite the fact that Canada federally legalized weed. US Customs and Border Protection later revised its policy so those working (or who had worked) in Canada’s legal weed industry could freely travel to the US.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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