Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned 61 people on Wednesday, 18 of whom were immigrants facing deportation over their prior criminal charges.
The New York Democrat said his pardon, a direct rebuke of President Trump’s immigration enforcement, was related to their rehabilitation efforts since their convictions.
"These New Yorkers have proved their rehabilitation, in some cases for decades, but have been unable to gain legal status or fully reenter society due to the stigma of conviction," Cuomo said in a statement. "While the federal government continues to target immigrants and threatens to tear families apart with deportation, these actions take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York."
According to Cuomo’s chief counsel Alphonso David, the pardons were directed toward those who committed low-level offenses.
“New York is a state of immigrants,” David told The New York Times. “And most of these individuals made mistakes decades ago, and have been contributing members to our society.”
Cuomo’s office released specific information on three of the immigration-related pardons:
Lorena Borjas, 57, was convicted of Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree in 1994, as a result of being entrapped as a victim of human trafficking. Ms. Borjas, a transgender woman from Mexico, has since become a strong advocate for transgender and immigrant communities across the country, running HIV testing programs for transgender sex workers, and syringe exchange programs for transwomen taking hormone injections. She currently works as an educator at community health centers across New York City, and has received commendations from elected officials, advocates, and community members, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. With this pardon, she hopes to obtain citizenship and avoid deportation, in order to effectively continue her advocacy work here in New York State.
Alexander Shilov, 35, was convicted of Petit Larceny and Attempted Petit Larceny, from 2000 to 2004. As a teenager, newly immigrated from Estonia, the son of a hard-working single mother, Mr. Shilov developed a drug addiction leading him to commit the string of misdemeanors that now jeopardize his ability to stay in this country. For the past 13 years, Mr. Shilov has remained sober, and has worked his way from obtaining his GED to becoming a distinguished nurse at a Brooklyn long-term managed care provider. Additionally, Mr. Shilov frequently gives talks on overcoming addiction at hospital detox units, volunteers as a nurse in New York's Medical Reserve Corps, and provides bilingual services in his Russian-speaking community. A pardon will allow him to fight his current Order of Removal and pave the way for citizenship so that he may continue building a life with his fiancée and two infant children, and continue to support his elderly mother.
Freddy Perez, 53, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1993. Since then, he was worked as an electrician and has taken care of his autistic younger brother. Mr. Perez is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and hopes to adjust his status to that of citizen. With a pardon, he can achieve this goal, as well as exercise guardianship over his brother.
Fifteen other immigrants who were convicted of nonviolent offenses but had lived crime-free for the past 10 years or more were granted pardons as well.
"These pardons will grant a chance at American legal residency," Cuomo's office stated. "For those facing deportation, while a pardon may not automatically remove the grounds of removal, it is a necessary predicate to regaining the right to remain here in the country they call home."