Civil and Human Rights Groups Urge Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons
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Civil and Human Rights Groups Urge Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons

November 4, 2022 The Hon.Joseph R.Biden, Jr.
Civil and Human Rights Groups Urge Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons

r. President of the United States The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear President Biden: We welcome your decision to pardon federal convictions for marijuana possession as a much needed first step toward mitigating the harm “war on drugs” and “war on crime” policies have imposed on Black and Brown families. However, as organizations working on racial justice, human rights, and immigrant rights issues, we are grimly disappointed at the explicit exclusion of many immigrants and at the absence of affirmative measures to ensure that all immigrants get meaningful relief from the immigration consequences that can follow marijuana convictions. Cutting people out of criminal policy reforms simply because of their place of birth casts a shadow over the White House’s efforts to address the over-policing and mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities. Moving forward, we urge you to ensure that every step taken to remedy racial injustice includes relief to impacted immigrant communities. In particular, we urge you to extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and to take necessary steps to ensure that immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions. You rooted the October 6th proclamation in the pursuit of racial equity, noting that “Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.” Yet you exclude Black and Brown immigrants facing the same structural racism as U.S. citizens.

The announcement accompanying the proclamation also notes that pardons will relieve the collateral consequences resulting from marijuana-related convictions, including barriers to employment, housing, or educational opportunities.[1] Yet immigration detention and deportation are also consequences that flow from marijuana-related convictions, consequences left unaddressed by your proclamation.

The proclamation leaves immigrants behind in two primary ways. First, it applies only to people who are currently citizens or lawful permanent residents, casting aside undocumented immigrants and other lawfully present immigrants such as refugees and asylees.[2] Second, although full and unconditional pardons by the President should have the legal effect of removing the immigration consequences of marijuana possession convictions,[3] immigration prosecutors and judges will likely ignore the pardon’s effect in deportation proceedings.[4] These omissions mean that non-citizens will either be entirely ineligible for a pardon or may receive a pardon, but still face deportation as a consequence of the pardoned offense.

The President should extend the pardon to all immigrants, and the administration should issue agency guidance that ensures immigrants previously deported or facing deportation because of a pardoned conviction receive appropriate relief.[5] When pardons, clemencies, or sentence reduction measures do not address immigration consequences the ensuing harms are grievous. Deportation can be a death sentence for individuals who have fled or fear persecution in their country of birth; others face stigma and violence specifically aimed at people deported from the United States. Family members remaining in the United States after a loved one is deported often endure poverty, food and housing insecurity, and negative mental health outcomes.[6] There is also palpable injustice when the same government that delivers an act of clemency follows it with a penalty as harsh as deportation. More than one year ago your administration announced the development of a pardon process focused on pursuing racial equity. Nearly 200 civil rights, immigration, and criminal justice organizations wrote to you following that announcement, emphasizing that immigration is a racial justice issue and urging you to include immigrants in the pardon process.[7] We reiterate that request today, and urge you to acknowledge that unjust laws that disparately impact Black and Brown communities are no more or less unjust depending on one’s citizenship status. As you stated on October 6th, no one should be in jail for marijuana possession. No one should be denied access to higher education or precluded from pursuing the career of their dreams because of marijuana possession. Surely no one should be deported and permanently exiled from their loved ones and community because of marijuana related convictions. Thank you for your consideration. With questions, please contact Heidi Altman at haltman@heartlandalliance.org and Sirine Shebaya at sirine@nipnlg.org. Sincerely, ABISA ACLU of New Jersey African Communities Together AIDS Alabama AIDS United Aldea - The People's Justice Center Alternative Chance / Chans Altenativ American Civil Liberties Union American Friends Service Committee American Gateways American Immigration Lawyers Association Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC ASISTA Immigration Assistance Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) Better Organizing to Win Legalization Black Alliance for Just Immigration Black and Brown United in Action California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ) California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance Cameroonian Community Of West Michigan (CACOWMI) Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition CARECEN SF - Central American Resource Center of Northern California Carolina Migrant Network Center for Constitutional Rights Center for Gender & Refugee Studies Center for Law and Social Policy Central Florida Jobs With Justice Centro de Trabajadores Unidos City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center Colectiva Legal del Pueblo Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Colorado Jobs with Justice Columbia Law School Immigrants' Rights Clinic Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP) Community Asylum Seekers Project Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible Conversations with Friends Detention Watch Network Drug Policy Alliance Envision Freedom Fund Faith in New Jersey Families for Freedom Farmworker Association of Florida Federal Public & Community Defenders Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) Freedom Network USA Giselle Holloway Grassroots Leadership Haitian Bridge Alliance Her Justice, Inc. Hispanic Federation Hope CommUnity Center Human Rights Watch Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Immigrant Action Alliance Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, CUNY School of Law Immigrant ARC Immigrant Defenders Law Center Immigrant Defense Project Immigrant Justice Network Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Immigrant Legal Defense Immigrant Legal Resource Center Immigration Hub Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice JUNTOS Philadelphia Just Futures Law Justice Action Center Justice Strategies La Resistencia Legal Aid Justice Center Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention (LA-Aid) Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrates The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Make the Road New York Mariposa Legal, program of COMMON Foundation Migrant Center for Human Rights MomsRising/MamásConPoder Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity Muslim Advocates NASTAD National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) National Immigrant Justice Center National Immigration Law Center National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice New York Immigration Coalition NorCal Resist North Carolina Justice Center Northwest Immigrant Rights Project NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic Ohio Immigrant Alliance Parabola Center for Law and Policy Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice RAICES RCHP-AHC Still Waters Anti-trafficking Program Respond Crisis Translation Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network Rural Organizing Project SEIU Florida Public Services Union South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) Southeast Asia Resource Action Center Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund Still Waters Anti-trafficking Program StoptheDrugWar.org Students for Sensible Drug Policy Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative TASSC (Torture Abolition & Survivors' Support Coalition) International The Bronx Defenders The Legal Aid Society (New York) The Sentencing Project The Unitarian Universalist Association Transformations CDC UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy UCLA Law Criminal Defense Clinic UnLocal Vera Institute of Justice Veterans Cannabis Coalition Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Washington Statewide Reentry Council Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center Women's Refugee Commission [1] White House Briefing Room, Statement from President Biden on Marijuana Reform, Oct. 6, 2022. [2] White House Briefing Room, A Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana, Oct. 6, 2022. [3] See Jason Cade, The Immigration Implications of Presidential Pot Pardons, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4255925. [4] 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(vi) provides a list of removal grounds that may be waived in the case of a presidential or gubernatorial pardon. Because the controlled-substance ground is not included in this list, the Board of Immigration Appeals and some federal courts have ruled that pardons by state governors for drug-related offenses will not prevent immigration consequences. [5] Many immigrants previously deported because of a pardoned conviction or facing removal on the basis of a pardoned conviction will require a positive exercise of discretion by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure they are able to access relief. For individuals already deported on the basis of a marijuana related pardoned conviction, DHS can mitigate the immigration consequences by joining in the individual’s motion to reopen their proceeding and stipulating to termination of proceedings or a grant of relief from removal. For individuals currently in the United States facing removal proceedings or at risk of facing removal proceedings on the basis of a vacated conviction, numerous options are available to DHS to ensure protection for deportation including stipulating to the individual’s relief or providing protection from deportation in the form of Deferred Action. [6] Soc’y Cmty. Research & Action Div. of the Am. Psychological Ass’n, Statement on the Effects of Deportation and Forced Separation on Immigrants, Their Families, and Communities, 62 Am. J. Community Psychol. 3, 3-12 (2018); Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement, Urb. Inst. (Feb. 2010). [7] National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Civil Rights Groups Call on President Biden to Include Immigrants in Pardon Process, June 2, 2021.

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