It’s commonly known that lying to the government isn’t a good look. So when Jose Palomar was advised by his attorney to answer anything he was asked truthfully, he did as such. Now, he isn’t allowed back into the United States.
Jose Palomar, a 26-year-old resident of Corona, California and temporary legal status holder, travelled to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico about two months ago in order to fulfill his requirements to be granted a green card and legal permanent US residency status. During his physical, he was asked about any illegal substance use. Palomar was honest and responded that he used to smoke cannabis. That statement alone brought his residence application to an abrupt halt. Not only did the government deny his green card request, but he was also denied re-entry into the United States. He remains in Mexico while his wife and children wonder when, or worse, if he’ll be able to come back home.
(FOX 11 Los Angeles)
Palomar arrived in the US when he was six and grew up in Anaheim, California. In 2012 he applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA; he qualified for the program initiated by then President Barack Obama’s administration because he was a child when he was brought to the country illegally. Around the time he applied, he met Christine. Two years later, Jose and Christine married. Christine had two children prior to their dating, and the two of them had a couple of babies of their own. Since qualifying for DACA, Palomar has been able to legally live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
“I have bigger goals,” Palomar said. “I want to become a citizen.” Five years into their marriage, he applied for a green card to become a naturalized American. He had also said that he stopped smoking cannabis about three months before leaving for Ciudad Juarez. To be absolutely sure there wasn’t marijuana in his system, he tested himself four times and “every test came out negative,” Christine Palomar said.
“I admitted to have used (marijuana) in the past,” Palomar said. “I was told by my lawyer that during the process in Juarez to speak about nothing but the truth as it would hurt me to lie. So I was honest, but apparently it still affected my case.” Jose and Christine are now searching for both answers and a way to get him back home to their family. “Does the government want us to be truthful, or does the government want us to lie?” Christine Palomar asked. “If you’re truthful, look what happens. (But) if you lie, you can still get in trouble,” she added. “It’s not fair.” Despite 33 states and Washington D.C. having passed some form of medical and/or recreational legalization, cannabis use still poses a complex dilemma when it comes to immigration, which falls under federal jurisdiction.
According to Ally Bolour, a Los Angeles immigration attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, “You can’t use it. You can’t work in a dispensary. And even if you’re a U.S. citizen working in the cannabis industry and your income is cannabis related, that income is not eligible to satisfy the affidavit of support to become a sponsor. You won’t get a visa. You won’t get a green card. You won’t get a waiver. It happens a lot.”
Although it remains unclear whether government officials denied Jose Palomar’s application because he tested positive for marijuana or just solely based on his response to being questioned, the United States Consulate’s office in Ciudad Juarez reported that a doctor labeled Palomar as a drug addict. This information comes from the office of Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, who is searching for waiver options that may allow Palomar to reenter the country.
In an emailed statement, Rep. Calvert wrote, “I think this situation only further underscores the inherit problems with the contradictory legalization of marijuana. Until something is passed to change the federal classification of marijuana, individuals, businesses and even state/local governments should be mindful that the use, distribution and sale of marijuana continues to be crime in the eyes of all federal agencies.”
Meanwhile, Jose and Christine Palomar, along with their children and families, are struggling with the looming possible reality of Jose remaining barred from crossing the border into the United States for upwards of a decade. "The thing that hurts me the most is when I see my wife crying when I talk to my little kiddos and they start crying as well," said Palomar from Ciudad Juarez. "I've always been that person to take control of everything I do and make sure I do everything right. I'm in a situation where I have no control." He continued: "For trying to do everything right, I got this in return. I regretted doing all this. I should've just stayed home. I was protected enough. I was hoping for a better future for not just myself, but my family. But it didn't go as planned."
(Marquart Law Group)
Christine Palomar, who is against marijuana use and is now working full time while raising their four children alone, said, "Some days I don't know how I'm going to do it but you have to keep pushing and that's one thing I'm going to keep doing. I'm going to get my husband home if it's the last thing I do because at the end of the day, the four people who mean the most to me, besides my husband of course, are those kids and you have to keep pushing for the kids."
(Orange County Register)
According to FOX 11, “The Palomars have applied for a provisional waiver with the Department of Homeland Security, which they say could take a year to get approved. They have asked Representative Calvert to expedite it.”
By RJ Blade
RJ Balde is a freelance writer, host, actor, performer, having worked in cannabis writing and advocacy for the last decade. RJ has worked with numerous organizations and media companies in cannabis writing, show hosting, and advocacy, including Airtime, Eaze, SDA Media, TRICHOMES.com, and WeedTube.