ALBANY, NY -- Governor David A. Paterson has announced that he has issued pardons to 24 individuals who are subject to deportation as a result of prior criminal convictions.
"Over the course of my Administration's review of more than 1,100 pardon applications it became abundantly clear that the Federal government's immigration laws are often excessively harsh and in need of modernization," Governor Paterson said. "The individuals pardoned today committed past offenses but paid their debt to society. They now make positive contributions to our State and nation, and I believe they should be protected from inflexible and misguided immigration statutes."
In May 2010, Governor Paterson created a special Immigration Pardon Panel to collect information and provide recommendations on pardons for deserving individuals to assist them in avoiding deportation. The initiative was designed to address and counter aspects of the immigration laws that may result in inflexible and unjust decisions to remove legal immigrants from the United States, often tearing them away from their children and spouses. In many of these cases, the individual's efforts toward rehabilitation, their years of living a law-abiding life in the community and their positive contributions to society have not been considered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the decision to deport.
One harshness of the Federal law results from retroactive changes made in the mid-1990s, whereby crimes that did not previously carry the consequence of deportation were made deportable. In many other cases, individuals previously had pled guilty without being aware that their plea might subject them to mandatory deportation. As a result, many individuals who were convicted many years ago are now facing deportation, often after they apply for citizenship or seek to renew their permanent resident status. Additionally, individuals may face deportation to a country they left as a child, where they now have no relatives, may not speak the language and have no place to live or means to support themselves.
"That our Federal government does not credit rehabilitation, nor account for human suffering is antithetical to the ideals this country represents. With these pardons, I have selected cases that exemplify the values of New York State and any civilized society: atonement, forgiveness, compassion, and the need to achieve justice, and not simply strict adherence to unjust statutes. I will not turn my back on New Yorkers who enrich our lives and care for those who suffer," Governor Paterson concluded.
The individuals who received pardons include:
• Tressan Allen, in 2002, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree, a class B misdemeanor. She is married to an active duty U.S. Army Specialist who is currently stationed in Germany and will be deployed for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in February.
• Luz Marina Camacho was convicted of drug sale and possession crimes in 1983. She was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, but Governor Mario Cuomo commuted her sentence in 1991. Since her release, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has permitted her to remain in the United States under a "deferred action," which will expire in February 2011.
• Ian Carter pled guilty to Attempted Criminal Sale of Stolen Property in the Third Degree in 1994 and was sentenced to five years on probation. He has demonstrated his rehabilitation by receiving an Associates and a Bachelors Degree, maintaining gainful employment and serving his community by participating in charitable activities. A pardon will remove the basis for his deportation.
• Edouard Colas was brought to the United States from Haiti as a lawful permanent resident at age 10. He was convicted in 1997 of Attempted Burglary in the Third Degree and sentenced to five years on probation. He has maintained gainful employment and is married to a United States citizen with whom he has two young sons. The pardon will remove the basis for his deportation.
• Lucila Cruz has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1992. She was convicted of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree in 1996, and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. Many supporters, including her employer, have commended her for the care she provides to her severely disabled son. The pardon should remove all grounds for her deportation.
• Vijay Dandapani was pardoned for a 1993 conviction of first-degree grand larceny, for which he served a one-to three year sentence. He cooperated with the prosecution, including providing essential testimony at the trial of his accomplices. A pardon will prevent his deportation, allowing him to remain in the United States with his wife, who is a citizen, and two children.
• Neil Drew has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since he was 10 years old. He was convicted of third-degree grand larceny in 1998, for which he served a one-to-three year sentence and made restitution. He has earned a Bachelors Degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has been gainfully employed as a graphic designer. His two brothers serve in the U.S. military. The pardon should fully resolve his immigration problems.
• Carol Hamilton, now a Reverend, was convicted of two class A misdemeanors of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree in 1995 and 1986, for which he was sentenced to a conditional discharge and a fine, respectively. He has now earned a Bachelors and a Masters Degree and works as an ordained minister, counseling youth, ex-offenders and people living with HIV/AIDS. A pardon should assist him in fighting his deportation, allowing him to remain in the United States with his wife and three young children.
• Olusegun Ola Johnson, a lawful permanent resident since 1991, was convicted of three counts of second-degree forgery and one count of third-degree grand larceny in 1990, for which he was sentenced to five years of probation. He has had no further contacts with the criminal justice system, and is now an ordained deacon, who is married to a citizen and is the father of four children.
• Walter Mills, now 60-years-old, was convicted of attempted possession of a firearm in 1973 and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. In the 37 years since this conviction, he has had no other contact with the criminal justice system. He now works full time and cares for his 82-year-old mother. The pardon will be considered a favorable discretionary factor if he is ever placed in deportation proceedings.
• Pedro Montesquieu was convicted in 2000 of attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third degree and was sentenced to five years on probation. Montesquieu runs his own business, and is the father of three young children, two of whom suffer from severe and life-threatening illnesses. The pardon should enable Montesquieu to re-open his immigration proceedings and would make him eligible to seek cancellation of removal but because he was convicted of a controlled substance offense, it will not guarantee that he will be permitted to remain in the United States.
About this case, Governor Paterson said: "At a later date, we may have a clearer idea of the impact that a pardon will have for persons with controlled substance convictions who are fighting deportation, but I am granting this pardon for humanitarian reasons because of the sorrowful multiple tragedies that may beset this family."
• Francisco Moya de Leon, who has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1988, was convicted in 1994, of fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance for which he served five years on probation. He is married to a citizen, and his son serves as a police officer in New York City. Moya de Leon is now facing removal as an inadmissible alien because he left the country three times after he was convicted, despite the fact that he has been a lawful permanent resident for 22 years and was re-admitted to the United States after each trip outside the country. Governor Paterson granted the pardon to assist Moya de Leon in overcoming the unfairness of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services decision.
• Frances Novoa, who is now 63 years old, is being threatened with removal for attempted petit larceny convictions from 1984 and 1974, for which she was sentenced to a conditional discharge. Novoa is gainfully employed, and provides stability to one of her daughters and three of her grandchildren, who would suffer a serious disruption of their lives and extreme emotional harm if she were to be deported.
• Angela Parker was brought to the United States at age four. When her father was killed when Parker was 11 years old she was kicked out of her home and, along with her 16-year-old sister, forced to live on the streets and endure years of abuse and violence. During these tumultuous years, she was convicted, in 1989, of two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and one count of first-degree assault and was sentenced to 1½ to 4½ years in State prison. For the last 17 years, she has raised her oldest son, who served in the U.S. Army, and is now desperate to remain in the United States so that she may help her two younger children have a better life than she had.
• Juan P. Ramirez, who was then the owner of a bodega, was convicted in 2003 of two misdemeanors. Since these convictions, he has been gainfully employed, supporting his wife and children. He has been an active member of his community who has devoted himself to helping others. The pardon should remove all grounds of deportability and allow him to have his green card restored.
• Laurenton Rhodon has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for twenty years, but now faces removal as a result of a 1995 conviction for Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, for which he was sentenced to five years probation. Rhodon has sole custody of his 12-year-old daughter. The pardon will make him eligible to seek cancellation of removal, but because he was convicted of a controlled substance offense, there is no guarantee that he will be permitted to remain in the United States.
• Fredy C. Rojas, a veteran of the U.S. Army and after having served our country for 8 years, is deportable as a result of a single misdemeanor drug possession conviction in 1995. Since that time, he has completed drug treatment and, together with his wife, who is a citizen, he is raising his 7-year-old daughter and working as a truck driver.
• Jose Sanchez was granted lawful permanent resident status in 1998, even though he disclosed to immigration officials that he had been convicted in 1989 of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to five years on probation. Eleven years later, after Sanchez has built a stable life in New York, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to deport him for that same conviction.
• Melbourne Sinclair has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1986. He was convicted in 1990 of the misdemeanor offense of fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana and sentenced to a fine. As many permanent residents do, he applied for naturalization, unaware that he was ineligible as a result of his conviction, and he now faces the likelihood of being placed in deportation proceedings. If removed, he would be torn from his wife, who is a citizen, and sons, who would likely be unable to continue their college attendance without their father's support and assistance. If he is placed in proceedings, the pardon will make Sinclair eligible seek cancellation of removal, but will not guarantee that he will be permitted to remain in the United States.
• Eligio Valerio has resided in the United States since 1982, but was recently the subject of immigration proceedings based on a 1986 conviction for fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and a 1988 conviction for fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. In the 22 years since his conviction, Valerio has been gainfully employed, has raised a family and has had no further contact with the criminal justice system. The pardon will make him eligible for cancellation of removal.
Additionally, Governor Paterson pardoned four individuals who, due to retroactive changes to the immigration laws, would have been subject to deportation. These individuals were all convicted of offenses that did not initially carry the penalty of deportation, though that was changed due to subsequent legislation. Those pardoned include:
• Salvador Gonzalez was convicted of first-degree assault in 1975, for which he served a one to three year sentence in State prison. He has had no involvement with the criminal justice system in the 35-years since his conviction, and is now a small-business owner who takes care of his elderly parents and his young son. Gonzalez has been hampered in his efforts to prevent his removal, because retroactively-effective changes in the immigration laws in the 1990s made him ineligible for cancellation of removal – a form of relief that was available to him at the time of his conviction.
• Engels R. Guzman, a lawful permanent resident of the United States since age 15, was convicted of second-degree robbery in 1990, when he was 16 years old. After his release from prison, he worked in the family supermarket business, married and is the father of four young children. He too has been hampered by retroactive changes in the immigration law that now made him ineligible for cancellation of removal.
• Jose Palma has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1971, but faces deportation as a result of a first-degree reckless endangerment conviction from 1978, for which he served 60 days in jail and five years on probation. He has lived an exemplary life during the 30 years since he was released from parole supervision, having become a business owner and raising his three children with his wife of over 30 years. Like Gonzalez and Guzman, he has been hampered by retroactive changes in the immigration law that now made him ineligible for cancellation of removal.
• Randy Valentin De La Cruz has been a lawful permanent resident since the age of 13, but now faces removal to an unfamiliar country as a result of a 1984 conviction for first-degree assault, for which he was sentenced to 1½ to 4½ years in prison. In the 26 years since this conviction, De La Cruz and his wife have raised their two children, one of whom has served in the U.S. Navy for the last 11 years. Like other pardon recipients, retroactive changes in the immigration laws have made De La Cruz ineligible for cancellation of removal. The pardon should eliminate all grounds for deportability.