California May Shield Immigrants Charged with Drug Crimes from Deportation

Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2015

When Jesús Cordero was arrested for Ecstasy possession, his lawyer offered what seemed like an obvious solution: Plead guilty and undergo drug counseling. Once Cordero completed the course, the charges would be dismissed.

It’s a popular option for Californians charged with minor drug crimes who seek to avoid jail time and clear their records. But for immigrants such as Cordero, who was then living in the United States illegally, such a plea can trigger their deportation.

Now, in a state that has both liberalized immigration laws and eased punishments for drug crimes, legislators will soon consider a measure that could shield immigrants from such consequences.

The proposal addresses a difference between state and federal law. Although California considers minor drug charges to be wiped away once a defendant finishes treatment, nearly all drug convictions still stand under federal immigration law–and can set off deportation proceedings. That applies to immigrants without legal papers and those with green cards.


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