In a strong counterpoint to a new law that criminalizes illegal aliens in Arizona, Gov. David Paterson yesterday said he would create a pardon panel to reconsider deportation cases based on old or minor crimes.
“In New York, we believe in renewal,” the governor said in an address to a gathering of state judges. “In New York, we believe in rehabilitation.”
Paterson criticized current immigration laws as “embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible.”
Officials have estimated there are thousands of immigrants’ cases that could qualify for review by the proposed Special Immigration Board of Pardons. The board is to be comprised of five state employees.
In March, Paterson pardoned Qing Hong Wu, who emigrated to the U.S. from China at age 5. In the mid-1990s, Wu was convicted as a juvenile of committing street muggings with other teenagers in Chinatown. He served three years in juvenile detention. As an adult he became an information technology executive and applied for citizenship at age 29. Federal officials, seeing his youth conviction, held him for deportation as a criminal alien.
“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,” Paterson said.