Disabled veteran’s husband at risk for deportation over years old marijuana charges

Matt Saintsing
December 13, 2018 - 3:36 pm

Courtesy of Alexsa Foster

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After living legally in the United States for decades, the husband of a disabled veteran is facing deportation over marijuana charges for which he served no jail time.

Dane Foster, 36, a Jamaican-national and legal US resident, was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Dec. 4 in Westhampton, N.J. shortly after dropping off his daughter at daycare. His wife, Army veteran Alexsa Foster was shocked.

“They opened the door and they said they had an active warrant for immigration for (Dane) and that they had to take him,” she tells Connecting Vets.

“I’m all for criminals being focused on who don’t deserve the things that we fought for, I understand that, but he didn’t do anything,” says Alexsa. “He’s not out there doing anything wrong to anybody, so why him?"

Courtesy of Alexsa Foster

Dane came to the US in 1991 when he was eleven-years-old, and has been mostly out of trouble, with the exception of  simple marijuana charges going back years. He’s held a green card since 1997, renewing it in 2009.

Under current immigration law, a first conviction of marijuana possession is excused, but his wife says Dane is caught up in the politics of a raging national immigration debate with tensions rising between state and federal officials.

On Nov. 29, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced new rules restricting how state law enforcement works with federal immigration agents, like ICE.

The “Immigrant Trust Directive” is intended to reinforce good faith between law enforcement and immigrants throughout New Jersey, says Gurbir. New Jersey has one of the highest undocumented immigrant populations in the country—half a million according to the Pew Research Center.

Grewal said he was hopeful the new directive would encourage immigrants to contact authorities when crimes are committed.

A day after the announcement, however, a spokesman for ICE’s Newark office said that New Jersey should expect a higher level of arrests.

"The probability is that at-large arrests and worksite enforcement operations, which already exist, will likely increase due to the fact that ICE ERO will no longer have the cooperation of the jails related to immigration enforcement," Emilio Dabul, an ICE spokesman told NBC Philadelphia.

Afia Yunus of Yunus Law, an attorney working on Foster’s case, says Dane’s arrest is no coincidence. “That back and forth happened a few days before Dane was picked up,” she tells Connecting Vets.

He was one of the 105 immigrants ICE picked up in a colossal wave of raids throughout New Jersey.

Dabul denies that the arrest was related to the New Jersey Directive, telling Connecting Vets it “was part of a targeted enforcement operation planned well in advance.”

“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement actions in compliance with federal law,” he says. “Dane Foster, a Jamaican national, is subject to removal from the U.S. based on his criminal history.”

Photo Courtesy of Alexsa Foster

The Immigration and Nationality Act lists crimes that immigrants can be deported under, one of which is possession of marijuana under 30 grams.

“Since he is a green card holder and was convicted of more than one marijuana possession charges he is removable from the United States,” says Yunus.

While that law has been in place since 1968, deporting people for simple possession of marijuana wasn’t always the case.

The Obama administration followed a policy of prioritizing violent crimes—like murders and burglaries—that ranked higher for deportation. But that changed when President Donald Trump signed an executive order rescinding all previous policy related to the priorities for removal from the United States.

“Someone like Dane would not have been a priority during the previous administration, because he was convicted of non-violent offenses, none of which are felonies,” says Yunus. “They’re considered petty offenses in New Jersey, for which the jail time would not have exceeded six months.”

He served no jail time.

Photo Courtesy of Alexsa Foster

Alexsa served her country for seven years, and is disabled as a result of her service. She joined the Army in 2007 as an all-wheel vehicle mechanic, serving four years of active duty at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. She then joined the New Jersey National Guard, leaving the military in 2014 when she was honorably medically discharged due to a fractured pelvis.

She also suffers from migraines that can spark seizures, leaving her unable to work, receiving some VA disability compensation. Dane, who runs a lawn service, is the full-time bread winner for his family that includes four children aged two-years-old up to nine.

For Alexsa, the uncertainty surrounding her husband’s case is stressful both financially and emotionally. “Do I have to get a job? What am I going to do with my kids?,” she says. “I can’t even process this in my head.”

Dane is currently awaiting a court date; no bail has been set.

Foster says she holds no ill-will against ICE, since she understands how both the military and law enforcement follows orders. “I’m not mad at the agents, but it’s the people making these decisions who don’t know who they’re really impacting,” she adds.

The Foster’s have set up a GoFundMe page to raise cash for Dane’s legal fees and other family costs. $1,765 has been raised as of Thursday afternoon.

A vigil is scheduled to support Dane at 6:00 ET Thursday in front of the Essex County Correctional Faciltiy at 354 Doremus Ave, in Newark.

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