Article by Daniel Denvir, Salon News
Garfield Kenault Lawrence has been deported and separated from his family because of minor pot convictions.
In September 2011, Melissa Lawrence was seven-and-a-half months pregnant and working as a waitress when she got the call. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had detained her partner, Garfield Kenault Lawrence. That he had arrived at age 11 and was a lawful permanent resident didn’t matter because Kenault had been convicted of small-time marijuana offenses. In January 2013, he was deported to Jamaica after more than a year in detention.
“Everybody thought I was just American,” says Kenault, now 31, speaking from Jamaica. “I came to America in fifth grade.”
By Kenault’s account, he was an everyday American pot smoker. But Lawrence was railroaded by immigration officials who misinterpreted federal law, says his lawyer, caught up in President Obama’s expansive campaign to deport drug offenders en masse. Lawrence’s deportation marked the first time he had set foot in Jamaica since age 15.