Denver mayor: Trump admin denying legal immigrants citizenship over work in state's marijuana industry

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) said legal immigrants are being denied naturalized citizenship from the Trump administration because their work in the state's legal marijuana industry is ruled not “of good moral character.”

Hancock and City Attorney Kristin Bronson wrote a letter on Wednesday to U.S. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Why a backdoor to encrypted data is detrimental to cybersecurity and data integrity FBI official who worked with Mueller raised doubts about Russia investigation MORE on Wednesday on behalf of two immigrants. 


Hancock wrote that federal officials denied the immigrants applications for naturalized citizenship because they were deemed to not be of “good moral character.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allegedly told the immigrants that their rejections were strictly based on their past or current employment in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.

The two immigrants, one from El Salvador and another from Lithuania, have lived in the state for years.

“They have graduated from our schools. They have paid their taxes. They are working to achieve the American dream and complying with the processes in place to become a part of our great society, but were denied naturalization solely because of their cannabis industry employment,” Hancock wrote in the letter.

Immigrant Oswaldo Barrientos described his citizenship application rejection as like getting “sucker punched,” according to a news release from Hancock’s office. 

“I thought I was a shoo-in. I’ve been here long enough. I’ve paid my dues,” he added.

The other immigrant’s name was withheld because of fear of complicating her current job in the medical field.

Hancock and Bronson asked for Barr to offer official guidance from the Justice Department to ensure “consistent implementation and enforcement of state marijuana laws” in the more than 30 U.S. states that have fully or partially legalized the drug.

Hancock noted in his letter to the federal government that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE has advocated for states’ rights in the past.

“Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock said in a statement. “However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like the Denver residents I have met with are being denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.”

The state launched the “safest and most successfully regulated legal cannabis market in the world on January 1, 2014,” Hancock wrote. “It remains that way today.”

Debbie Cannon, a spokesperson for the USCIS, said in a statement to the Denver Post that marijuana is illegal under federal law and the federal agency is required to abide by that.

Despite state law legalizing marijuana use, “as a federal agency, we are legally unable to make special considerations in the cases unless or until federal law is changed,” the statement continues.