By The Linked Press

Colorado officials are warning legal immigrants that operating in the state’s marijuana business could jeopardize their legal status, following two individuals mentioned they had been denied U.S. citizenship due to the fact of their jobs.

Despite the fact that 10 states broadly enable its use and sale, federal law nevertheless bans marijuana and immigration authorities say they are bound to stick to that prohibition when reviewing citizenship applications.

Attorneys representing the two legal immigrants from Colorado, and Denver officials, accused the Trump administration of quietly targeting immigrants in search of to function in the expanding field. Immigration advocates mentioned Thursday they have noticed other individuals denied citizenship primarily based on previous or ongoing function in cannabis-connected jobs, but it is not clear how lots of situations exist.

Oswaldo Barrientos, a single of these denied citizenship, mentioned he started operating in the business in 2014. He was inspired by the analysis he had performed into health-related items following his mother was diagnosed with skin cancer.

Barrientos, 30, mentioned he was brought to the U.S. from El Salvador as an infant and was granted a green card when he was 13.

He mentioned he didn’t anticipate any complications with his citizenship application. He is fluent in English and mentioned he has no criminal history, pays taxes and graduated higher college. But in the course of an interview in November, the immigration official focused on Barrientos’ job with a state-licensed business that grows marijuana, he mentioned.

Weeks later, he received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Solutions denying him due to the fact of his job, his lawyers mentioned.

“I was shocked, appalled, sad,” Barrientos mentioned. “It was a mixture of feelings. I had no concept I was going to be in this scenario.”

Barrientos’ attorneys Aaron Elinoff and Bryce Downer, who specialize in immigration law in Colorado, mentioned they also represent a lady whose citizenship application was denied due to the fact of a preceding job at a marijuana dispensary. She asked not to be named publicly due to the fact of a new job in the health-related field, they mentioned.

“Frankly, these are the individuals we want to be citizens,” Elinoff mentioned. “And the U.S. government is telling them no. We do not know how lots of individuals have been denied on the similar problem.”

Kathy Brady, a senior employees lawyer with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, mentioned legal immigrants have reported equivalent denials in Colorado and Washington state, exactly where marijuana also is legal. Brady mentioned she does not know how lots of individuals have been denied citizenship for their function in the marijuana business.

She advises individuals without having U.S. citizenship to uncover function elsewhere unless federal law modifications.

“Even if you have had a green card for 20 years, you had improved not function in any aspect of this business and you improved not use marijuana,” Brady mentioned.

Deborah Cannon, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Solutions, mentioned the agency does not comment on person situations. She defended denials primarily based on involvement with marijuana, saying the agency have to stick to federal law that prevents its use or sale.

“Despite state law that may perhaps enable health-related marijuana use, the Supreme Court has held that Congress’ authority below the Commerce Clause empowers it to prohibit drug distribution and possession, even if the prohibited activities are not also illegal below state law,” she mentioned. “When adjudicating applicants for citizenship, the agency is needed to apply federal law.”

The use and sale of marijuana for adults is broadly permitted in 10 states. A lot more than 30 states enable a selection of marijuana-primarily based items for health-related purposes.

Advocates have warned immigrants of the peril that employing state-permitted marijuana could do to their legal status for years and are expanding that message to include things like employment by marijuana companies.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center started operating with California’s employment agency to answer workers’ queries this year. On Wednesday, the Denver agency that regulates marijuana companies told providers to warn new workers that their function could block citizenship applications.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock met with Barrientos and other individuals this week ahead of calling on U.S. Lawyer Common William Barr to problem formal guidance on the problem.

“Denver understands the have to have for federal laws and regulations relating to citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that these federal laws and regulations are possessing on our residents,” Hancock wrote to Barr.

Barrientos mentioned he plans to appeal the denial of his application. His attorneys are also thinking of his selections in federal court.

In the meantime, he is following their tips not to leave the nation and threat getting barred from re-getting into. He plans to retain his job and calls the government’s denial of his application “downright incorrect.”

“I’m attempting to support individuals,” he mentioned. “We want to function really hard to reside the American dream. That is all I’ve ever wanted.”