Shimon Abta, an Israel native, was working in Nevada to observe marijuana cultivation processes for agronomical purposes has been forced to leave the U.S. Abta was performing the observation for Israel-based Tikun Olam. He, with his wife Esther’s help, was in the process of applying for a green card.
When meeting with an immigration officer on December 15, Shimon explained the nature of his work being strictly observational, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal. He also explained that he’d recently been laid off. On December 20, Shimon received a letter notifying him that his green card application was denied.
Abta was labeled as being a drug trafficker and was ordered to arrive at McCarran Airport on January 8. He was being forced to leave the U.S. Esther Abta believes that the immigration officer misunderstood Shimon when he explained the nature of his job.
Part of the issues is that Shimon did not have any form of U.S. identification other than his CWNevada ID. He wasn’t employed by the company, he was merely a visitor.
Agronomy is very different from drug trafficking. Observing operations is not handling marijuana or participating in facility operations.
If Shimon did not voluntarily leave the U.S., he would have been deported. This is because federal prohibition remains in place. Shimon is now in Tel Aviv living with family. The Abtas are examining the cost of relocating to Israel. Given the nature of the allegations against Shimon – he may never be permitted to re-enter the U.S.
Ed Prudhomme is representing the couple. He is prepared to take this case all of the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Prudhomme said, “I think the officer was undertrained.”
Prudhomme also speculates that a superior officer directed the other to deny the green card application.
Shimon said, via Skype, that, “So the meaning of that is all the people that work in the cannabis industry, they are a trafficker by federal law, they are a criminal by federal law and they have nothing to protect them.”