Luis Quintana Alvarez, a DACA recipient faces deportation after being arrested for possessing one gram of marijuana.
A majority of Americans support the idea of legalized marijuana and the federal DACA program. Yet, a teen who faces deportation over possession of one gram perfectly highlights federal overreaction in both areas.
Luis Quintana Alvarez has no memory of Mexico. He came to the United States at the age of 11 months. He was granted legal status after President Obama signed an executive order, DACA, that allowed for children brought into the United States as minors to stay.
But last year, Quintana was riding in a car that was pulled over by police. The officers found one gram of marijuana in the car. Quintana claims that he took the responsibility for the marijuana so that his cousin would not get kicked out of college.
He received one year of probation over the possession charge. However, this triggered a federal investigation and his year of probation turned into an impending deportation.
DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, must not be convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors in order to remain in the program. Quintana appealed the ruling and argued that one gram of marijuana did not qualify as a serious misdemeanor.
Ta-Yu Yang, Quintana’s attorney, also sought a defense through the Immigration and Naturalization Act which could prevent deportation for possession charges under 30 grams. The appeal was rejected.
Yang then attempted to file for asylum, claiming Quintana would be a target by criminals in Mexico seeking ransom since Quintana has family and friends in the United States. The judge ruled that DACA recipients do not qualify as a social group that is eligible for asylum.
Quintana is very worried that the life he knows will disappear.
“My world would just be over,” Quintana said by phone from jail according to USA Today. “I would feel like a foreigner because I’ve been here in America all my life. I pledged allegiance from kindergarten to 12th grade.”
DACA recipients represent some of the best of America’s youth. The vast majority of recipients are employed and contributing to American society. And most important of all, they were brought here through no fault or action of their own. They represent the modern American dream and are not asking for handouts (they are not entitled to federal programs like food stamps).
But one gram of marijuana can apparently remove them from the only home they’ve ever known. Teens making mistakes, especially rather harmless ones, are all part of what we expect from children growing up in America. Except, in this case, one of our children is in a jail cell, worried that a single gram of marijuana could put him in real danger and place him in a foreign country.