Luis Quintana Alvarez came to the United States with his mother and siblings when he was only 11 months old. One year ago, Alvarez and his cousin were pulled over for speeding in Ames, Iowa. Police officers discovered about one gram of marijuana in the car, which is worth about $10. For that small amount of weed, Alvarez is facing deportation from the United States.
According to Alvarez, the marijuana actually belongs to his cousin, but he took the fall because he didn't want his cousin to be kicked out of college. Initially, he was only going to receive probation for the charge. However, Alvarez has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. DACA was a policy put in place by the Obama administration that granted temporary legal status to children who were brought with their parents immigrating to the United States.
Due to his DACA status, the federal government got involved in Alvarez's case. They removed his legal status and scheduled him for deportation back to Mexico.
Alvarez's attorney has appealed the sentence on multiple grounds. DACA recipients can lose their legal status if they're convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors, but his attorney noted the Immigration and Naturalization Act makes an exception to those rules if the charge is for marijuana possession under 30 grams. Despite the fact that Alvarez only had one gram of marijuana on him, that appeal was denied.
His attorney is making a new argument seeking asylum in the United States for Alvarez. His lawyer argues that since Alvarez received DACA status while in the United States, he could be a target for Mexican cartels if he's deported. It's not possible to know if cartels would target DACA recipients because none have been deported.
Alvarez's case takes on increased importance as last week President Donald Trump announced his intention to repeal DACA. Many children of immigrants living in the United States will face the same uncertain legal status and possible deportation. Trump says he wants Congress to create a new version of DACA, but no deal has been reached yet.
So Alvarez is the victim both of the United States' illogical drug laws and immigration policies that often emphasize deportation even in cases where person has lived their entire lives in America.