With President Donald J. Trump and the United States Federal Government waging a war on immigrant communities, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has granted pardons to Caribbean and other immigrants convicted of minor offenses from deportation.
Cuomo on Monday issued pardons to seven individuals, including nationals from Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominica Republic, facing the threat of deportation and other immigration consequences as a result of previous minor criminal convictions.
This is the third time the governor has used his pardon authority to protect individuals facing potential deportation, including most recently in December where he issued pardons to 18 other individuals.
“At a time when President Trump and the federal government are waging a war on our immigrant communities, New York stands firm in our belief that our diversity is our greatest strength,” said Cuomo in a statement.
“While President Trump engages in policies that rip children out of the arms of their mothers and tries to ramp up the deportation of New Yorkers to advance his political agenda of hate and division, we will protect our immigrant communities.
“With the Statue of Liberty in our harbor, New York will always stand against the hate coming out of Washington and instead serve as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all,” the governor continued.
Cuomo said the pardons issued to the following individuals are in recognition of their rehabilitative efforts and to remove the barriers that their criminal records present to their immigration status.
He said some are facing deportation, while others wish to be able to participate in their communities as citizens of the country they call home.
In each case, Cuomo said a pardon will make immigration-related relief possible, if not automatic.
He said every recipient in is in good standing, having given back to their communities and families in a variety of ways, and having “demonstrated a substantial period of crime-free, good citizenship.”
Cuomo said Jamaican Tamar Samuda, 35, left the US to travel to Jamaica for family funeral, and, on return, was detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency as a result of convictions from 17 years ago.
“She was released on immigration parole in February 2018, and continues to fight her deportation,” the governor said.
Since her convictions for low-level assault and petit larceny, Cuomo said she obtained a GED, a high school diploma equivalency, and completed medical assistant training, and works in home health care and doctors’ offices.
Cuomo said Samuda is a single mother of three school-aged children.
She was cleared to work as an aide in New York City public school special education, but immigration detention prevented her from doing so, Cuomo said.
He said Barbadian national Frank Barker, 43, has been “crime-free” for nine years.
He was convicted of criminal possession of stolen property and controlled substances and identity theft from a short-term period of criminal activity resulting from drug addiction.
Cuomo said he has been sober for eight years and works as a coordinator at an HIV/AIDS supportive housing provider in New York City, is a certified substance abuse counselor and a community advocate in the Bronx.
“He is the financial provider for his family including his daughter with special needs,” the governor said.
The New York governor said the other parolees are from the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
The Dominican Republic nationals are Carlos Suarez, 41; Elpidio Rodriguez, 57; Ludames De La Cruz, 53; and Jose Rafael Cruz, 53.
The Colombian national is Marino Soto, 43.
Cuomo said he has used his ability to grant clemency to reward rehabilitation, reunite families, protect against deportation and help New Yorkers become fully contributing members of our society.
Since taking office, he said he has issued 34 pardons, 12 commutations and 140 conditional youth pardons.
Cuomo said Monday’s pardons are the latest actions he has taken to support the immigrant community and defend immigrants against what he deemed as “federal attacks.”
In 2011, Cuomo signed a wide-reaching executive order to ensure language access across state agencies, suspended the State’s participation in a federal program that required local law enforcement to help identify deportable individuals, signed legislation holding entities that defraud immigrants accountable, and established the Office for New Americans.
He launched NaturalizeNY, the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants in New York State with becoming US citizens.
In 2017, Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project, a state-led, public-private legal defense program to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel.
In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, Cuomo said the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide.
The fiscal year 2019 budget includes an additional US$10 million investment “to ensure the Liberty Defense Project continues to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical services in defense of our immigrant communities.”
Last month, Cuomo announced a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policy of forced family separation on the US southern border.
To protect immigrants from overly aggressive deportation tactics increasingly utilized by ICE, the governor issued executive orders to prohibit ICE arrests in New York State facilities without a warrant, prohibit state agencies and officers from inquiring about individual’s immigration status, “unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service or disclosing information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of civil enforcement.”