By David Brand
Two Queens lawmakers rallied with immigrants’ rights advocates in Albany on Tuesday to encourage Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use his pardon power to protect immigrants with criminal histories who face deportation.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz called on Cuomo to grant clemency to immigrants at risk for deportation based on their prior convictions or run-ins with the law.
“Many of New York’s immigrants who would benefit from pardons are victims, not perpetrators, of a criminal justice system that was designed to incarcerate them and today we are asking Governor Cuomo to support us,” Ramos said. “Many of my neighbors fall victim to this system, and I urge the Governor to hear and recognize their stories.”
Cruz, the first DREAMer elected to the state legislature in New York, said Cuomo could “correct the injustices” of the Trump administration..
“I call on the governor to protect these vulnerable New Yorkers in response to the war Trump has declared on our immigrant communities,” Cruz said. “These individuals and their families need us now more than ever.”
The Immigrant Defense Project introduced the Immigrant Clemency Project in the fall of 2018 in order to help immigrants gain pardons and resist policies that affect people with criminal records.
On Dec. 31, 2018, Cuomo issued 29 pardons for New York residents, including 22 for immigrants at-risk of deportation.
"While President Trump shuts down the federal government over his obsession with keeping immigrants out, New York stands strong in our support for immigrant communities," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the pardons. "These actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York."
But advocates from the IDP and other organizations say more pardons are needed to ensure New York families remain together. In certain cases, a pardon could clear the path to citizenship or remove the grounds for deportation for noncitizens.
“The current political climate, combined with the rigid immigration laws that have been on the books for decades, puts thousands of New Yorkers under constant threat of deportation,” said IDP’s Acting Executive Director Mizue Aizeki. “For immigrants facing deportation, Gov. Cuomo’s unique clemency power can be the difference between permanent exile or being able to stay with loved ones and community.”