A young DACA recipient named Luis Quintana Alvarez faces deportation to Mexico after having been caught with a miniscule amount of marijuana.
The 19-year old has been living in the United States since long before he can remember.
Alvarez, like every recipient of DACA, was allowed to stay stateside due to an Obama-era order which laid protections for young men and women who had been brought illegally to the United States as children.
In the case of Alvarez, he had been living in Iowa since he was 11 months old. While his parents came to America from Mexico, Luis has never known another home.
Shortly after his eighteenth birthday, Luis and a cousin were riding to Ames, IA, when they were pulled over by a state trooper for speeding.
During a search of his cousin’s vehicle, the officer uncovered a small ball of marijuana – hardly the size of two bottle caps.
According to Alvarez and his lawyer, Ta-Yu Yang, the 18-year old lied to the officer and said the weed was his, ostensibly in an effort to protect his cousin from getting kicked out of college.
Alvarez’s cousin, unlike Luis, was a U.S. citizen.
Luis had been hoping, according to an article on USA Today, that he’d be let off easy due to his young age.
The courts were sympathetic and only ordered Alvarez to serve a year of probation with no jail time.
However, the charge triggered federal involvement. Recipients of DACA – Dreamers – can only continue to renew their residency and work permissions if they can clear background checks, are in education or the military, and stay out of any significant legal trouble.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act makes an exception for individuals who charged with offenses involving less than 30 grams of marijuana – Alvarez only had two.
Nevertheless, the youth was ordered to be deported and his appeal was tossed aside.
Alvarez’s lawyer, in a bid to keep Alvarez in the only home he’s ever known, tried a novel approach: Yang argued that, as a DACA recipient, deportation would likely result in the teenager’s exploitation in Mexico.
It is not uncommon for deportees in Mexico to face harassment once forced back to their country of origin, with organized criminal gangs staging kidnappings to wrangle ransoms out of relatives and loved ones still living in the United States.
Yang and Alvarez are now submitting another appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, after their argument of possible exploitation was rejected – despite the judge’s sympathy and evaluation of Alvarez as sincere, honest, and straightforward.
Alvarez said he’s seen people bond out of immigration court with much more serious crimes.
“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.
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