Obama Administration

How Obama's War on Drugs Destroys Legal Immigrant Families

When it comes to legal immigrants and drug policy, you are guilty until proven innocent.


A recent report by WNYC News puts a spotlight on the harsh punishments doled out to immigrants held in New Jersey immigration detention centers. 

This past week, Reason TV profiled Melida Castro, a Guatamalan immigrant and permanent legal resident of the United States, who spent months inside one of these New Jersey detention centers, fighting off deportation over a minor drug charge from more than two decades ago.

Original writeup is below: 

You came to this country legally, as a young woman. You've spent three decades working, paying taxes, raising children. But a minor scrape with the law from 20 years ago has put you on the fast track to deportation. You will be arrested at your home and placed in detention, where you are presumed guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. If you cannot afford a lawyer, none will be provided to you. 

This is what Melida Castro, a native of Guatemala and a permanent resident of the United States, learned the hard way when immigration authorities knocked on the door of her New Jersey home with a warrant for her arrest.

They were took her into custody on suspicion of drug trafficking. The diminuitive mother of three did not look the part of a drug kingpin. But one fateful night two decades ago, Melida was pulled over while driving with two friends who, unbeknownst to her, were in possession of a small amount of cocaine. Though they took responibility for their drugs, everyone in the car was arrested. 

Because of the threat of deportation, a lawyer advised Melida to take a plea deal for simple possession, a misdemeanor. She paid a fine, perfomed some community service and the charge went away. In the 20 years since, she secured her green card, passed her citizenship test, and never had another brush with the law. 

No matter. The authorities were here to take the mother of three from her home and into one of the most draconian and inhuame pockets of the American legal system, a detention center almost two hours from her home, where she was forbidden from even touching her children during visits.

Melida recalls one experience while in detention where a guard screamed at her 12 year old daughter for attempting to give her a hug. Afterward, Melida was strip-searched, and forced to squat and cough, to prove she hadn't smuggled in outside contraband.  

How does someone with one minor blemish on their record, whose debt is supposedly paid, end up locked up with no legal recourse?

Grace Meng of Human Rights Watch, who published a report detailing dozens of cases like this, explained to Reason TV, "The Obama Administration has focused on deporting anyone with a criminal conviction. In this country, drug arrests are quite common. From 2007-2012, more than 250,000 people were deported who's most serious conviction was a drug offense. Of those people, the most common type of conduct was possession."

Meng adds, "Immigration judges have no discretion…their hands are tied" when it comes to adjuticating cases deemed "aggravated felonies." Judges must deport these people without offering them an individualized hearing where they can present evidence on their behalf. Also, court-appointed lawyers are not provided for the indigent, and these deportations are irreversible. There's no coming back. 

What can be done to alleviate the needless suffering of law abiding residents of the United States, who may or may have ever committed a crime?

While Melida was detained, her mother, suffering from the ravages of late-stage Alzheimer's disease, was left without her primary caretaker. Melida was also unable to help her pregnant daughter, Mercedez, as her due date approached.

Mercedez told Reason TV how she and her U.S.-born sisters contemplated moving to Guatamala (which she describes as a beautiful, but scary, place) to be with their mother in the event she was deported. They would ultimately be spared having to make that choice. 

After seven months in detention and after accruing extensive legal bills, a judge ruled the obvious: that Melida had never been a drug trafficker. She was free, but because of a broadly written law and its blunt enforcement, she missed the birth of her grandson and many of the last days of her mothers life. To hear her tell it, she missed a lot more than that.

"I missed my kids," Melida says. "Holding and kissing them. Making sure they walked to school the right way. Missed my plants, my music, the smell of the laundry. Things you don't think you're going to miss." 

Though she was unjustly detained for months, Melida is one of the lucky ones. Under the Obama administration's current policy, where deportations have dramatically increased, people have been deported for crimes that were pardoned, expunged, or proven to not even have been crimes. 

Meng says that there current political climate is so hostile to immigrants, even legal ones, that there is simply no appetite to reform these policies, which are being "enforced to the hilt."

"When Americans hear that immigrants are being deported for drug offenses, they imagine a foreign drug cartel leaders," Meng explains. "They don't imagine people who grew up here, who are green card holders, who have families. They may have made a mistake, but they're forced to pay the price forever." 

Though she has already passed it once, Melida is scheduled to take her citizenship test again. If all goes well, she could finally be a U.S. citizen next year. 

"I am American. This is my country," she says. "This is my house, my kids were born here. This is home for me." 

NEXT: Yeonmi Park's North Korean Defector Story

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  1. Hmmm… Fucking with people who came here legally. That’ll teach ’em to respect the law!

    1. You can’t court us and deport us!

  2. Come here illegally and they offer you amnesty

    Come here legally, follow all the rules, and live here for decades, and we find every excuse we can to fuck you over.

    Yeah that sounds like a working immigration system.

    1. All the more reason to laud those who ignore the law.

      1. sounds like someone’s ready for Hillary

        1. Has anyone made a meme of “ready for Hillary” with a picture of a stick figure bending over? Because if not, they should.

    2. follow all the rules, and live here for decades, and we find every excuse we can to fuck you over

      No more than they fuck with native born citizens, but I get your point and agree.

    3. Govt by Top. Men. clearly!

  3. OT: Six very strange things have been happening in financial markets around the world

    1. Negative swap spreads

    2. Fractured repo rates

    3. Corporate bond inventories below zero

    4. Synthetic credit is trading tighter than cash credit

    5. Market moves that aren’t supposed to happen keep happening

    6. Volatility is itself more volatile


    What does it mean?

    1. 7. American authority has greased the track to felonies to such a lubricious extent that the vast number of Americans now with felonies (mostly for non-violent drug possession) is impacting actual employment numbers. Startling.

      1. While it’s morally wrong and it should stop immediately, it’s a drop in the bucket.

        The vast majority of Americans aren’t working simply because they don’t want to. The Obama administration has found dozens of ways to lie about it, none of which are convincing.

    2. It means don’t have investments in the Financial Services industry. It’s about to dry up, and they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

      I had a fund through T Rowe for the last 3 years, and I dumped it a few months ago. It’s just not safe anymore.

      1. There’s also apparently a lot of disruption coming down the pipeline for FS.

    3. That Janet Yellen is more than just a bad haircut?

      1. Obama just loves him some fugly dykes named Janet. Remember the Napolikagan?

        1. Don’t forget Reno.

        2. Statistically, it’s not an accident. He has to be doing it on purpose (the ugliness, not the names).

          1. Far left women tend to be fugly, so it’s no accident.

            1. You got it backwards. Fugly women tend to be far left. Why? Because it’s unfair that they’re fugly, and the whole point of being a leftist is to make things fair. With the correct legislation and application of government force, these fugly women might retake the opportunities that their attractive, conservative counterparts unfairly stole from them.

              1. Sometimes, sarc, I have to tell you, I think the being far left came first and made them that way. They’re so ugly on the inside that it all can’t be contained and bleeds right through to the surface.

                1. The left promises to make things fair with force, and to punish all who get in the way. That ideology naturally attracts people who feel that life isn’t fair. Like, for instance, women who were born fugly.

                  1. Nothing like taking an unfortunate handicap in life and making it 1000x worse by being an insufferable asshole that no normal person can stand to be around.

              2. This situation calls for some Harrison Bergeron.


        3. One thing I’ve noticed is that most leftists feel that attractive women cannot be intelligent. I think that’s one reason that they hate FOX News so much. That network likes to put forward women who are both. But from the POV of a leftists, they’re just dumb bimbos who are following a script that was written by a man. Probably Rush Limbaugh.

          But show leftists an unattractive woman with an abhorrent personality, and golly she must be super smart and qualified. I mean, just look at how mean and ugly she is. Obviously she’s really smart.

          1. I think part of that attitude comes from the fact that a really attractive woman who can keep her head on partially straight tends to be able to just glide right through life with the least of effort on her own part. I think that’s where the entire thing about really attractive women being dumb comes from. I’ve known plenty of hot women who are very intelligent.

            1. Ah, yes. Life isn’t fair. Attractive women get opportunities that fugly ones do not get, and that’s not fair. But with the right legislation and proper use of government force…

              1. I don’t think there is any legislation they can conjure up that will take away the advantages of really hot women. Because men. It’s unpossible.

                1. Mandatory hot-poker face treatments for the physically attractive? There’s always the classics.

  4. No war has been waged so globally and violently on innocents as the War on Drugs.

    Terrorists are second-class retarded guppies with aimless dreams when compared to drug-hating governments and their endless strafing into emotional/existential tatters millions of lives and families over the surging decades.

  5. OT: Argentina has signed two nuclear power plant construction deals with China for about $15 billion, the Argentine government said in a statement on Sunday, calling the deals “a fundamental step toward diversifying our energy matrix.”


    I hope the Chinese asked for cash up front.

    1. China will do anything on credit.

      I was considering going to the new hotel they built in the Bahamas. I’m very glad I didn’t book. They’re bankrupt now.

      1. Today, the Space Needle was flying the French flag. A friend of my texted me: “Does this mean we surrendered to the Chinese?”

        1. It means they surrendered to everyone.

  6. Needs anal, but two outta three ain’t bad

  7. “I am American. This is my country,” she says

    And that means the government can decide to fuck with you whenever they way, for any reason, at their discretion. Murika, fuck yeah!

    You’re welcome on the libertarian plantation, please don’t vote for fascists and commies.

  8. This story is a little confusing. So she applied for citizenship and was approved and during the time she was waiting for that process to be final, immigration came to her house to arrest her?

    Let me get this straight:

    She was here illegally, and arrested on drug charges.

    After that she applies for a green card and gets it.

    Then she applies for citizenship and was approved, but while she’s waiting on the completion of that process, immigration comes and arrests her for deportation?

    This is really strange, I’m not sure we’re getting the straight story here or all of the details.

    Once you have a green card, which would be pretty hard but possible to get after being here illegally and being arrested, it’s typically then a lot easier to get citizenship than it was to get the green card.

    1. It’s hard to go after illegal immigrants because there is no file on them. She had a file. She filled out a bunch of paperwork, and had a prior arrest. So they had information on her to act on, and acted. Didn’t matter if it was unjust or not, it looks good. Going after illegal immigrants who are committing crimes is hard because they haven’t given the government a bunch of immigration. So why bother? Go after the ones you know about because it makes you look tough on crime and immigration.

      1. No, I’m telling you, I know the immigration process pretty damn well. I did my wife’s myself and I learned a LOT, a lot more than I need to know, I was following hundreds of cases online while I got my wife’s green card processed. First of all, it’s damn hard to get a green card with any sort of prior drug arrest, it is possible, but I saw several cases and even after years of legal battles these people had went through, they were still in limbo having appealed and were waiting, waiting, or they were just denied.

        Then there’s the whole timeline of this story. What I want to know is if she already had her greencard, why are they coming after her then? This is very weird. And then the part about her already being in the citizenship process. What’s the deal with that? The story is incomplete.

        1. I figure that someone was tasked with going through records and finding people who “slipped through the cracks,” and that someone found her and decided to make her life miserable.

          1. It’s possible, but not likely. The immigration system is extremely overwhelmed, They don’t have much time for shit like that, unless someone personally was out to get her.

            1. And from what I’ve seen, I mean I don’t ever remember hearing of someone having their green card revoked, unless they did something pretty bad ‘after’ they got it.

    2. She was here illegally, and arrested on drug charges.

      The article says she came here legally.

  9. Funny, but I thought everyone was guilty until proven innocent. What makes legal immigrants so special?

  10. Maybe it’s just me, but that maudlin image is kind of annoying. It makes me think I’m about to read a human interest story on huffpo

  11. Though she has already passed it once, Melida is scheduled to take her citizenship test again. If all goes well, she could finally be a U.S. citizen next year.

    Somewhat OT, but it occurs to me that the “citizenship test” could probably be found unconstitutional. It’s certainly, um, discriminatory.

    Also, go Ravens. 8-(

    1. Also, go Ravens.

      In other football news, Sam Bradford is hurt. WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING.

      1. Go Raiders. For once, I don’t feel as embarrassed saying that as I would if I said Go Ravens.

    2. There’s a civil test and an English language test(only applies to people up to a certain age). My wife’s friend just did the process, which seems to be extremely easy and fast compared to getting a green card. She said the test is really easy.

      It just seems strange to me that this woman was already going through the citizenship process and they come and get her for deportation. After already being given a green card? Some strange things happen in immigration cases, but there’s typically something going on that makes me think we are not getting all the details.

      1. Are you suggesting that Reason may be hiding information that goes against their narrative?

        I’m shocked that anyone could even consider such a thing.

        1. Your winnings, sir.

    1. If you had their enthusiastic consent maybe you would.

      1. I would have it no other way.

  12. Speaking of the War On Druggies destroying stuff, I missed this story earlier about the locals ganging up on the Fourth Amendment.

    The surveillance has raised concerns among Justice Department lawyers in Los Angeles, who have mostly refused to use the results in federal court because they have concluded the state court’s eavesdropping orders are unlikely to withstand a legal challenge, current and former Justice officials said.

    How bad does it have to be that the Feds think your indiscriminate wiretapping goes too far?

  13. Any excuse for a deportation is a good one. Ready the catapults!

  14. The HRW article says Melida Castro’s misdemeanor for possession was in 2002, not “20 years ago”.

    Beyond that, I’m left with the feeling that there must be more to this story than the open borders advocates are letting on.

    1. I feel certain of it.

      I also am not sure that I believe the story about 2 of her friends having drugs in the car and she didn’t know.

      Don’t get me wrong on that, I believe that ALL drugs should be legal. I just think that this story is full of holes. There’s nothing wrong with skepticism. I highly recommend it.

      1. I guess this is another “we are picking a stupid case to rally around, because,” like Ferguson was.
        Mark Steyn was writing on stupid treatment of legal immigrants months ago

        That is to say, you must be a law-breaker to enjoy the protections of American law. If you’re law-abiding, get lost. In my new book, I write about a perfectly lawful US resident called Deena Gilbey whose husband died on 9/11 helping evacuate fellow workers from the World Trade Center. Having breezily admitted to the country the persons who murdered her spouse, America’s evil immigration bureaucracy then devoted untold effort to getting Mrs Gilbey and her children deported. Those perverse priorities have now been formalized by the President.

      2. I also am not sure that I believe the story about 2 of her friends having drugs in the car and she didn’t know.

        Why? I can easily imagine that.

        1. I can imagine it too, and I’m not saying it’s not true, but this story sounds full of holes, sorry if that offends anyone.

          1. Are you suggesting that Reason may be hiding information that goes against their narrative?


  15. Reason.com’s vision for the West:


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