7.5 Policy On Legal Consequences of Substance Use

In addition to a host of complexities related to displacement, immigrants to the United States also potentially face additional legal challenges if their behavior is disclosed to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Substance use can lead to a rejection of an application for admission to the United States, or to deportation. Immigration laws classify three types of substance use: abusers, addicts, and persons convicted of drug-related offences (Mautino, 2002). While the first two are difficult to determine, for immigrants convictions often result with the individual being deported. Additionally, Mautiono (2002) reports that individuals in any of these three categories may be deemed “inadmissible,” which means that they would not qualify to immigrate to the United States and cannot qualify for a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa (p.1). It is important to note, that if the INS determines an immigrant to be an “abuser” or “addict” the immigrant is deportable without a drug-related conviction (Mautino, 2002). An immigrant is typically labeled as an “abuser” if s/he admits to using at least one illegal substance on one occasion within the past three years (Mautino, 2002). Drug convictions are generally related to possession, transportation, and trafficking illegal substances, and can happen in or outside of the United States; such convictions need not happen within the United States and are cause for deportation or being considered inadmissible (Mautino, 2002).


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Immigrant and Refugee Families, 2nd Ed. Copyright © 2019 by Jaime Ballard, Elizabeth Wieling, Catherine Solheim, and Lekie Dwanyen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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