Nineteen-year-old Des Moines-based Luis Quintana Alvarez is facing deportation stemming from charges over a single gram of cannabis. Alvarez, who was brought to the United States as an 11-month-old baby, is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s intention to eradicate the DACA program. The state of California sued the Trump administration on September 11 for its decision to end the DACA program, a decision that puts 222,795 Californians in jeopardy. Nearly 790,000 young immigrants have received work permits under the program, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The attorney generals of Maryland, Maine and Minnesota also filed lawsuits.
If Quintana were to get deported, “My world would just be over,” he told USA Today from his jail cell. ” . . . I would feel like a foreigner because I’ve been here in America all my life. I pledged allegiance from kindergarten to 12th grade.” According to Quintana’s attorney Ta-Yu Yang, Quintana took the fall over the small amount of cannabis because his cousin, a citizen, may have been kicked out of college.
Per the Immigration and Naturalization Act, people are ineligible to participate in the DACA program if they are convicted of a felony or an outstanding misdemeanor, however, Yang argued that the legislation excludes minor possession charges that involve 30 grams of cannabis or less.
But the judge rejected Yang’s appeal, as well as the opportunity to file for asylum. Some DACA recipients, such as Constantino Morales, have been quickly murdered by cartel members after being deported to Mexico.
Deporting Quintana, his mother says, will put him right back in the hands of his allegedly sexually and physically abusive father in Mexico, whom Quintana hasn’t seen since he was three years old. In the United States there are 11 million undocumented immigrants, but a minor cannabis charge shouldn’t be the determining factor of whether they get to stay. Yang plans on re-appealing to the Board of Immigration Appeals.