Roughly 260,000 Immigrants Deported From U.S. In Five Years for Drug Offenses

By McCarton Ackerman 06/18/15

Despite a promise by President Obama, deportations for minor drug offenses have reached staggering numbers.

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Despite a greater push towards reducing unnecessarily harsh punishments for non-violent drug offenders, that same treatment isn’t being extended to immigrants. A new report from the Human Rights Watch confirmed that 260,000 non-citizens convicted of drug offenses have been deported from the U.S. over a recent five-year period.

The staggering number of non-citizens deported took place between 2007-2012 and included both undocumented residents and permanent residents holding green cards. About 34,000 of these instances were due to charges of marijuana possession. Their length of time in the U.S., nature of their crimes, or family ties to this country were not considered when the decision to deport was made.

The findings are in stark contrast with President Barack Obama’s promise last November that deportation would only be reserved for the most serious criminals. “Felons not families; criminals not children; gang members [and not] a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” Obama said in describing the types of people who would be deported.

The HRW report, titled A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Low Level Offenses, cited several individual cases of low-level drug offenders who were either deported or are about to be. One of them highlighted the plight of Antonio S., an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was arrested in 2012 in Wyoming for carrying a small bag of marijuana. He pleaded guilty to a low-level municipal violation and completed a short jail term.

But instead of being released, he was then taken to an immigration custody center and held in custody for a year. Antonio was then deported from the U.S. and has lost his right to ever return.

Meanwhile, New York City resident Marsha Austin has had the possibility of deportation hanging over her head for nearly 20 years. She pleaded guilty to a 1995 incident in which she tried to sell $5 worth of crack cocaine to two undercover police officers, but could still be ordered to leave at any time.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.