For many years, U.S. immigration services usually did not deport green card holders for old, minor drug offenses. That has changed under the current administration. News headlines have talked about the crackdown on immigrants across the country, including legal permanent residents that have a green card.

Here is what the law says about drug crimes, permanent residents and deportation.

Almost all drug crimes can be a problem

U.S. immigration law includes a small section about drugs, which the law calls “controlled substances.” There is only one drug crime that does not make a green card holder deportable: One single violation of possessing under 30 grams of marijuana, and only for your own personal use.

Any other drug-related crime can make a green card holder deportable.

If a permanent resident is convicted of a drug crime under state law, U.S. law, or even the laws of another country, they can be deported. This includes a conviction for conspiracy to commit a drug crime, or simply attempting to violate drug laws. In addition, a permanent resident who is a drug addict or drug abuser can also be deported.

What to do if you are arrested for a drug crime

A drug conviction does not mean a permanent resident will certainly be deported – but it means they can be, if immigration officials decide to go that route.

One news report detailed the case of Dane Foster, a father with four children. He had held a green card since 1997. Between 2000 and 2014, he was arrested three times for marijuana possession. In 2018, because of those arrests, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took him into custody and prepared him to be deported.

These types of cases are happening more often than ever before. If you, a family member or a friend are arrested for a drug crime, it is important to contact an attorney immediately. You have the right to hire a lawyer. You have the right to present your case to the courts.

There are ways to fight against drug charges, and strategies to try to stop officials from deporting someone. The sooner you get help, the better your chances.