Obama, Gay Marriage and Marijuana – An Immigration Perspective

On November 6th,  President Obama won a clear victory picking up all but one of the swing states; same-sex marriage was passed by voters in Washington State, Maine and Maryland; and Marijuana was decriminalized in Washington State and Colorado.  In this blog post I will discuss briefly the implications of these results on the current immigration law and policy.

Reelection of Barack Obama – Good News for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

President Obama has supported immigration reform as a Senator, a presidential candidate and as a president, but until June of 2012 he failed to make any major impact other than deporting more individuals then the Bush Administration.  On June 15th, 2012, however, the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security began an amazing new policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. I’ve written about DACA on my blog so you can read about it here. Basically it allows certain undocumented immigrants under 30 years old who came to the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday to obtain temporary lawful status and work authorization. It wasn’t the Dream Act but it’s a start and will be a great benefit to the already 200,000 young people who have applied for it.  Mitt Romney had stated that he would not continue DACA if he were elected, putting thousands of young people at risk of deportation. Since Barack Obama won the election we can be fairly certain that the program will continue and hope for the possibility of more comprehensive immigration reform.

Same-Sex Marriage in Washington State

Washington residents voted in support of marriage equality by passing Referendum 74.  On December 9th, same-sex gay couples will be able to marry in Washington State. Marriage Equality had been passed a year later by the legislature but this is the first time that Washington voters have voted to support same-sex marriage.  This is a tremendous step forward for Washington State and for the country. Unfortunately for bi-national couples in Washington State and throughout the country huge hurtles remain.  Under the current immigration laws, lawful same-sex marriages in Washington State or any other state that recognizes marriage equality, are still not recognized as valid marriages for immigration purposes. This means that a Gay U.S. Citizen still cannot petition for a green card for their husband or wife but a heterosexual U.S. Citizen can.  If you are in a relationship or married to a same-sex partner speak with an immigration attorney to learn about the current immigration options.

Marijuana decriminalized in Washington State and Colorado

MARIJUANA IS STILL ILLEGAL UNDER FEDERAL LAW.  It is important for non U.S. Citizens to realize that marijuana is still illegal under federal law even if it is legal under state law. If you are a lawful permanent resident (greencard holder) or other non-citizen be aware that marijuana use is a violation of your immigration status and could potentially place you in deportation proceedings.