The New York Times reports:
Nationally, more than 97,000 noncitizens are deported annually based on criminal convictions, rather than lack of lawful immigration status, and the great majority are believed to be legal permanent residents, said Nancy Morawetz, who teaches law at New York University and directs the N.Y.U. Immigrant Rights Clinic. She estimates that about 10 percent are from New York.
Thousands of other New Yorkers with green cards — like other legal immigrants elsewhere — are now afraid to travel or apply for citizenship for fear that they will be detained and deported based on an old conviction, she said.See story here and here. The governor's official press release is as follows:
Governor David A. Paterson today announced the creation of a panel to assist the Governor in reviewing pardon applications of legal immigrants facing deportation as a result of criminal convictions. This panel will make recommendations to the Governor's Office on those cases deserving of additional consideration based on the facts and circumstances of the applicant's individual case, such as cases in which the conviction concerned a minor offense, is old, or the individual has shown extensive efforts towards rehabilitation.
"Some of our immigration laws, particularly with respect to deportation, are extremely inflexible," Governor Paterson said. "However, federal law allows governors to pardon individuals in certain cases in order to remove the deportation consequence of a State criminal conviction. In some small way, we hope this initiative will help set an example for how to soften the blow in those cases of deserving individuals caught in the web of our national immigration laws. We hope it will prove that justice can always find a way."
Due to retroactive changes in federal immigration laws in the mid-1990s, there may be thousands of individuals in New York State who entered the United States legally but are now facing deportation for crimes that did not, at the time of conviction, carry the consequence of deportation. In other cases, individuals may have been unaware of the immigration consequences of guilty pleas or convictions for certain crimes. These individuals may have had convictions many years ago, and federal immigration authorities are seeking to deport them years later when, for instance, they apply for citizenship or to renew their permanent resident status.
In many of these cases, the individual's efforts towards rehabilitation, their years of living in the community without any contact with law enforcement, and the positive contributions they have made to society are not factored into whether the individual will be deported. In addition, they may be deported to a country they left as a child, where they have no relatives and may not speak the language, and their deportation may tear them away from their United States citizen children or spouse. As demonstrated by several recent examples, such deportation can cause a significant injustice in particular cases, which can only be remedied by the Governor's exercise of a pardon.
The panel will be a step in the review process that is used to gather information for the Governor in the exercise of his constitutional and statutory pardon power. The panel will consist of Executive Chamber and State agency personnel who will review cases to determine whether a pardon will assist the individual in avoiding deportation and whether the case warrants further review by the Governor's Office based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
The panel will gather additional information and interview applicants, as appropriate, to assist in advising the Governor on a pardon determination. The creation of the panel will allow more cases to be reviewed by the Governor's Counsel's Office and the Executive Clemency Committee – the two entities responsible for recommending cases to the Governor for exercise of his pardon power. In some cases, a pardon will not serve to prevent an individual's deportation pursuant to federal law. These include persons convicted of certain drug and gun crimes. The panel will assist in making determinations as to which cases fit this category.
In many other cases, a pardon will not be appropriate due to the nature of the crime or other facts surrounding the case. The panel will seek to identify those cases where the particular facts of the individual's background – including the nature of the crime, history of rehabilitation, ties to the United States and other factors – make him or her appropriate for closer consideration for a pardon.
Applications for pardons and for commutations (reductions of sentences) are made to the Executive Clemency Unit in the Division of Parole. The Unit receives requests each year in which persons are seeking pardons to prevent deportation. Persons seeking pardons to prevent deportation should continue to make their initial applications to the Executive Clemency Unit at the Division of Parole.
"The panel will only recommend pardons for those individuals who have contributed as New Yorkers and who deserve relief from deportation or indefinite detention," the Governor added. "This initiative will help to preserve the wealth of good that immigrants have provided our State, and will stand as a symbol of justice and humanity that captures the spirit of New York."
The Governor has broad authority to grant clemency, which may include a pardon, a reprieve or a commutation of an inmate's sentence. The New York State Constitution and Executive Law § 15 set forth the Governor's authority to grant pardons after conviction in New York State.