Paterson’s Pardon Panel Deserves To Be Made Permanent

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Gov. David Patterson’s administration was one stranded in disappointment. No need to rehash what you already know (For a critique of his record on immigration, click here).

But he did have one terrific innovation in the field of immigration. Last year he created a “pardon panel” to examine requests for pardons from immigrants facing deportation for relatively minor crimes.

Immigration law provides extremely serious penalties for legal residents who commit what under state law might be considered fairly minor infractions. The immigration law provides, however, that deportation of a lawful permanent resident will be halted if the person receives a full pardon.

The New York pardon panel considered 1,100 requests for pardons. On Christmas Eve, Paterson granted 34 of them. He granted six more earlier in the month.

All of those pardoned had already either served their time in jail or had satisfied other penalties, like fines or probation. So the pardons did not prevent them from paying their debt to society.

The pardons did, however, stop their deportations. Paterson said that federal immigration laws are “excessively harsh and in need of modernization.”

Responsible use of the pardon power is one way New York governors can make immigration law enforcement more humane. Paterson’s pardon panel deserves to be a lasting legacy of his governorship.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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