In 1971, Lennon came to New York on a visitor visa. He lost that in 1972 and, due to a drug charge (cannabis resin in his London flat), wasn't able to stay in the country. Katelyn Polantz explains how, with the help of his lawyer Leon Wildes, Lennon's situation "exposed the standards upon which President Obama's administration has built its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young undocumented immigrants who've grown up in the United States to stay in the country":
Wildes first protested in court using Lennon and Ono's contributions to American arts and the humanities as evidence of why they should stay. Ono was granted residency. Wildes then alleged that the government had targeted Lennon, unhappy with his political advocacy. He also contested the definition of cannabis resin.
But key to Wildes' argument were documents he found proving the government had overlooked deportation cases. Wildes presented 1,800 files showing the government had quietly granted a form of deferred action. Wildes used the records in court on behalf of Lennon, the first time such an argument was made. They won the case in an appeals court in 1975.
"[John] asked me personally, 'Not everybody can afford lawyers like you. Can we publicize this so everybody eligible can try to get it?' And that's what I've been trying to do ever since," Wildes said. This idea helps form the foundation for the present day deferred action program.