After federal agents denied citizenship to two immigrants who worked in the legal marijuana industry, the mayor of Denver, Colorado is speaking out.
In a new letter addressed to mayors of pro-cannabis cities around the country, Mayor Michael B. Hancock called on local governments to protect immigrants from federal prosecution.
Mayor Hancock Speaks Out
Last week, Hancock sent a letter to mayors around the country who are part of the Government for Responsible U.S. Cannabis Policy Coalition. Specifically, he sent the letter to the mayors of:
- Oakland, CA
- West Hollywood, CA
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA
- Thornton, CO
- Everett, WA
- Seattle, WA
In the letter, he spoke out against the recent decision by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny citizenship to two immigrants who worked in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.
Hancock also called on mayors in the coalition to protect immigrants who work or have worked in the legal cannabis industry.
The letter comes in the wake of a controversial decision by USCIS. The agency, which oversees the naturalization process, recently denied citizenship to two legal immigrants who live in Denver.
In both instances, USCIS agents based their decision solely on the fact that the immigrants had at one point worked in the marijuana industry.
More specifically, the agency said that employment in the legal marijuana industry was a violation of federal law. And as a result, the agency claimed, both immigrants failed to prove “good moral character.”
Both immigrants now face heightened risk of future prosecution, including detention and possible deportation.
Earlier this month, Hancock wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. In it, the mayor asked for greater federal clarity and consistency in how it approaches state and local cannabis laws.
And in an April 19 response, federal agents doubled down on their position.
Specifically, USCIS said that immigrants working in the legal marijuana industry will not be considered people of “good moral character,” and are therefore likely to be denied citizenship.
Hancock Urges Mayors to Protect Immigrants
In light of USCIS’s statement, Mayor Hancock’s newest letter calls on mayors to protect immigrants who may be involved in the legal marijuana industry.
“We fundamentally disagree with today’s guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” Hancock wrote.
“This is a matter [of] equity and social justice, and working in the legal cannabis industry does not mean someone is a bad person.”
He added: “Everyone should have a right to work in this burgeoning industry regardless of where they came from, what language they speak or the color of their skin.”
The Trump Administration’s “Second Wall”
Hancock and immigrant rights workers in Denver have voiced alarm over USCIS’s recent actions.
In particular, many are worried that federal agencies could begin using the legal marijuana industry to target immigrants.
In his most recent letter to other mayors, Hancock described USCIS’s actions as consistent with anti-immigrant moves coming from the Trump administration.
“At every turn, this administration is erecting barriers to legal paths to citizenship for our immigrant community,” he wrote.
Denver-based immigrant rights activist and Communications Director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Cristian Solano-Córdova agrees.
Specifically, he told High Times that USCIS’s recent actions are part of what some call “the second wall.”
According to Solano-Córdova, the second wall refers to a growing list of federal policies and decisions designed to make it harder for people to immigrate to the U.S.
“To us, this seems like a continuation of that second wall. They’re looking for any and all possible ways to limit legal immigration,” he told High Times.
“The wait times for naturalization have skyrocketed since the end of the Obama administration. Approvals for visas have gone down dramatically. And they’ve started a denaturalization campaign combing through millions of naturalized citizen applications that might be slightly off and using it as an excuse to take away citizenship and deport people.”
Now, Solano-Córdova and others fear that employment in the legal marijuana industry could become the newest brick in the Trump administration’s “second wall.”
“This isn’t an anti-cannabis move,” Solano-Cordóva told High Times. “It’s an anti-immigrant move.”