Past Drug Offenses Mean Deportation for Many

Selepri Amachree of Virginia, who recovered from a cocaine addiction four years ago, is being deported by the Department of Homeland Security because of a past drug-possession offense — just one example of longtime immigrants being caught up in an enforcement crackdown, the Roanoke Times reported June 10.

Amachree, 37, who was born in Liberia, has spent all but two years of his life in the United States. Currently, he serves as director of music ministries at Youth Challenge, a Christian drug-rehabilitation center in Newport News.

The deportation proceedings for Amachree began when he was sent to prison for violating his probation on a 1997 charge of cocaine possession. Under federal immigration laws, noncitizens like Amachree can be deported for minor offenses, such as theft or drug possession. Once Amachree leaves the United States in July, he will never be allowed to return.

The deportation decision is not based on the person’s lifestyle or history, said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Troy Collier, the executive director of Youth Challenge, has written the Department of Homeland Security to stop the deportation.

“Since the time Selepri began a serious walk with the Lord in March of 2000, there hasn’t been an arrest or new offense on his record,” Collier wrote in the letter. “Since his graduation from Teen Challenge in August of 2002, Selepri has recorded his first contemporary Christian CD, worked as an employee of Teen Challenge, and is now a vital part of the administrative staff here at the Youth Challenge Hope Center. The fact that Selepri has been to prison gives the men and women he works with the comfort of knowing he understands them.”