Embassy agrees to lift 'lifetime ban' on people who admitted using drugs

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel () - August 7, 2011 - 12:00am

 I just returned from a trip to Manila, and it was one of the most rewarding and productive trips I have had. During the trip, I was able to meet with Embassy officials concerning their long-standing policy of banning people for life because the persons admitted drug-use during their medical exam at St. Luke’s. (The Embassy took the position that admitting drug use resulted in a lifetime ban, for which there was no waiver or forgiveness.)

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Embassy agreed to lift the lifetime ban in certain cases, where the person admitted that the last time they had used drugs was more than a year ago, even if the person was over 18 years old at the time they used the drugs. (There already is a regulation on the books exempting minors from this ban, if they used drugs when they were under 18 years of age. This new policy applies even to people who were over 18 at the time they allegedly used drugs!)

 This development was the culmination of many years of hard work and effort to change this policy, making it all the more rewarding. This policy had really bothered me over the years, as I thought it was unfair to ban a person for life, preventing them from joining their loved ones in the US, just because, years ago, they may have experimented with drugs. After all, if you think about it, if Presidents Clinton, Bush or Obama were Filipino, they would have also been banned for life, as they admitted using drugs.

Being with family is important to Filipinos. For this, I had fought hard and argued against this policy: (1) appealing to, and seeking advisory opinions from, the State Department in Washington; (2) appealing to and/or seeking waivers of inadmissibility from USCIS in Manila; (3) meeting with Legal Counsel for the Dangerous Drugs Board of the Philippines (which administers or interprets the Dangerous Drugs Act) concerning the interpretation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 and 2002, and they had agreed with my position; (4) writing newspaper columns on the subject; and (5) educating people on the topic, during my show, Citizen Pinoy. I just would not give up.

And now there is new hope for people, as the Embassy is willing to reconsider refusals based on a person admitting drug use during the medical exam (where the person was never arrested, charged or convicted, or tested positive for drugs).

If you, a family member, or friend was ever refused an immigrant visa based on having admitted drug use during his or her medical exam, I would strongly suggest that you seek the advice of a reputable attorney, who could evaluate the situation, and determine if your case could be reopened or reconsidered, and you could possibly have your visa issued.

 For my part, I thank the Embassy for this welcomed change in policy and direction!

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