On December 31, 2020, Illinois Governer J.B. Pritzer tweeted,
I’m proud to announce that nearly 500,000 low-level cannabis-related records have been expunged in Illinois, four years ahead of schedule. We reached this milestone one year into what will be an ongoing effort to correct historic wrongdoings fueled by the war on drugs.
Today, I also pardoned 9,219 low-level cannabis conviction records, for a total of over 20,000 since the signing of Illinois’ recreational cannabis legislation, the most equity-centric in the nation.
It’s important to understand that even though marijuana use is legal in many states including Illinois, the Illinois cannabis conviction expungements don’t benefit immigration applications.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana on January 1, 2020, cannabis convection expungements are beneficial to many citizens. But a cannabis conviction, even if it is expunged, is still a matter of great concern for immigrants who have applied for legal status in the United States. Immigration applicants are evaluated on good moral character, which includes criminal charges and convictions, even if the charges were not proven or the conviction was expunged.
What Does Good Moral Character Mean?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can deny an immigration application or a citizenship application based on the applicant’s previous “unlawful acts.” Immigration officers evaluate good moral character “on a case-by-case basis and provide guidance on that case-by-case analysis.”
Good moral character is a requirement for citizenship and is considered by immigration officers for a Green Card and other immigration applications. USCIS assumes that anyone under the age of 14 has good moral character. For anyone 14 years of age and over, good moral character is a non-negotiable requirement. Any crimes that are considered inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act could be considered as a reason to deny your application — even when you have not been charged with a crime!
What You Can Do If Your Marijuana Conviction Was Expunged
Lying about your criminal history to an immigration officer can result in severe penalties, including deportation. An attorney with experience in criminal defense and immigration law will fight to minimize the negative impacts of a drug charge – including a marijuana conviction expungement – as they impact your immigration status.
USCIS has established that drug charges and drunk driving are examples of a lack of good moral character. Marijuana use and convictions even in legalized states are still considered a reason to deny an immigration application. Non-U.S. citizens who are convicted with drug offenses can be deported. Possession with intent to sell may be charged as an aggravated felony by immigration officials and result in removal proceedings from the United States.
If you are facing drug charges and concerned about the impact criminal charges can have on your immigration status, hiring an attorney with expertise in criminal defense and immigration law is your best defense. A criminal defense attorney who is not experienced with immigration law may not understand the implications of a drug conviction on your immigration status.
Learn More: How Does USCIS Treat An Expungement?
The Spanish-speaking attorneys of Godoy Law Office know how to fight for their clients in an immigration court just as well as they do in criminal court. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Godoy Law Office at 630-912-0322.
Godoy Law Office serves the entire Chicago, Illinois area including DuPage, Cook, Kane, Will, and Lake Counties.
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