Warning Regarding Drug Use Admissions

All immigrants should be aware of the danger that experimentation in their youth with marijuana, narcotics, and other illegal drugs poses to their petitions for immigration benefits. In a developing trend, the Manila Consulate in the Philippines is denying applications for immigrant visas and permanently barring aliens from coming to the U.S. on the basis of admissions of past drug use. These admissions may be made to an officer or to the physician administering the medical examination to aliens seeking immigrant visas.

The law requires that immigrants obtain a medical examination by a civil surgeon approved by the CIS. During the course of this examination, physicians question aliens regarding any drug use, past or present, and record the immigrant’s responses. Many aliens admit to past drug use, such as experimentation in their twenties with marijuana, understandably believing that there should be no immigration problem because they may have never been arrested, charged, or convicted of any crime, or because they do not use drugs any longer.

Immigration law has long contained a procedure for excluding aliens for conviction of any drug crimes, and this bar to coming to the U.S. is usually permanent. But immigrants seeking visas from the Manila Consulate are finding that the law is being interpreted by immigration officers to allow this same exclusion based only on the immigrant admitting past use, even where they were never arrested or charged with any crime.

Reeves & Associates plans to challenge this interpretation on several grounds. We believe that a different provision of the law already handles situations where aliens have used drugs in the past. This provision requires an investigation by the physician as to whether the immigrant has used illegal drugs in the past three years or not, and whether the immigrant is presently an addict. Should this investigation reveal that the alien is rehabilitated and recovered from any addiction, and no longer abuses any illegal drugs, we believe that the alien should still eligible to be issued an immigrant visa.

It is also our position that, even if such admissions can be used against the alien, the admissions can only be used if an exacting set of requirements are fulfilled regarding how the admissions were obtained. Not just any admission can exclude an alien, the admission must be validly obtained in order to bar the immigrant from coming to the U.S.

The first step we intend to take is to obtain full information and disclosure of documents from the CIS and Department of State regarding the medical examinations of affected aliens. It is critical to have full knowledge of what questions the physician asked, what statements he made to the immigrant, what responses the immigrant gave, and what notes and reports the physician made concerning the examination. Obtaining this information from the Department of State or Citizenship and Immigration Services is especially difficult for immigrants without legal representation because neither agency wishes to cooperate with such requests. Once we have obtained this information and reviewed it, we will seek to reopen proceedings in the case, and, if necessary, challenge the agencies’ decisions in federal court. Questions concerning these issues and their impact on individual cases should be directed to a qualified legal professional.

By: Attys. Robert L. Reeves and Nathan Graham