Drug Offenses


The harsh penalties for drug use and sale have torn families and communities apart without providing the safety those communities deserve. IDP is working to end the double punishment of people with drug convictions and reverse the harms of the drug war for immigrant communities.

In 1996, Congress enacted legislation hugely expanding the numbers of immigrants subject to mandatory detention, deportation, and denial of lawful status based on state drug offenses. Successive administrations have sought to apply the drug provisions of immigration laws extremely aggressively. IDP has been fighting to narrow the scope of drug-related laws used to detain and deport immigrants, including the controlled substance offense and drug trafficking aggravated felony grounds of removability.

NEW! Resources Regarding Second Circuit’s Landmark September 6th Decision in U.S. v. Minter, Holding Certain New York Drug Convictions Are not Aggravated Felonies or Offenses Relating to a Controlled Substance

The Second Circuit has issued a decision that New York’s definition of cocaine is categorically broader than the federal Controlled Substances Act. This decision also renders New York’s definition of cocaine and narcotic drug categorically broader than the Immigration and Nationality Act’s removability sections: offense relating to a controlled substance, and drug trafficking aggravated felony. Certain noncitizens are now eligible to terminate removal proceedings, apply for relief in removal proceedings, file motions to reconsider and reopen prior removal orders, and apply for immigration benefits such as naturalization. Below IDP provides resources about this decision for community members, lawyers, and advocates impacted by New York drug convictions and the immigration system. The Minter decision builds on years of litigation against the immigration and federal sentencing consequences of the drug war. See Hylton v. Sessions, Harbin v. Sessions, Martinez v. Mukasey, Mathis v. United States, Mellouli v. Lynch, Moncrieffe v. Holder, Carachuri Rosendo v. Holder, Lopez v. Gonzales. IDP is committed to ending the double punishment of people with drug convictions. For further assistance with impacted cases, please contact IDP. For a detailed analysis of the Minter decision and immigration consequences for New Yorkers, please subscribe to Quick Reference Chart for Determining Key Immigration Consequences of Common New York Offenses (2023), available at https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/product/updated-new-york-quick-reference-chart-2023-edition/.

Legal Resources Relating to Drug Convictions and Identity of Controlled Substance

Legal Resources Relating to Drug Distribution Convictions and the Means of Distribution