NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has granted pardons to several Caribbean nationals, including five Jamaicans, convicted of minor drug and other offenses and saving them from possible deportation under the Donald Trump administration’s tough policy on immigrants.
Cuomo said he was granting clemency to 29 immigrants “who have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to community crime reduction.
“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,” said Cuomo, adding “these actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.”
Five Jamaicans, a Trinidadian, one Haitian and six nationals from the Dominican Republic were among those granted pardons.
The governor said the pardons are in recognition of the immigrants’ “rehabilitative efforts and to remove the barriers that their criminal records present to their immigration status.
“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, a pardon will make immigration-related relief possible, if not automatic,” he said.
Cuomo said Jamaican Olive Ferguson, 75, was convicted of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in 1991 and that “she has been crime-free ever since”.
He said Ferguson is “an active member of her church. She has remained crime-free for 27 years. A pardon will minimise her risk of deportation.”
Jamaican Rohan Hylton, 47, was convicted of a similar offence in 1992 as well as criminal possession of marijuana in 2001 and 2003.
Cuomo said Hylton came to the United States over 30 years ago with his family “to escape political persecution.
“As a father and dedicated family man, he now lives and works in Queens. A pardon will allow him to apply for discretionary relief from his deportation order. He has not been convicted of any misdemeanours or felonies for 12 years.”
Cuomo said another Jamaican, Kerrone Kay-Marie Parks, 33, was convicted in 2013 on drug related charges.
“She is a domestic violence survivor, a mother of three children on the honour roll, and currently volunteers full-time at a nursing home. She has remained crime-free for five years.”
Jamaican Jeremy Grant, 58, was also convicted of drug related charges in 2005 “when an individual in a group he was a member of sold drugs to an undercover cop and the entire group was convicted in Manhattan,” the New York governor said.
He said Grant “has been in prolonged removal proceedings since 2006,” and “has remained crime-free for 13 years.
“A pardon would remove the barriers to apply for a green card renewal, and prevent him from being deported and losing his access to necessary medical treatment,” Cuomo said.
He said Grant’s compatriot, Trevor Elliot, 67, was convicted of drugs in the early 1990s and has worked at a non-profit that provides social services for the youth and as an elder care provider.
“A pardon would allow Mr Elliot to apply for citizenship. He has maintained a crime-free lifestyle for 10 years.”
Trinidadian Anthony Khan, 66, was convicted of a drug offence in 1980 when he accompanied an acquaintance to sell a controlled substance and was arrested as part of a sting operation in the Bronx.
Cuomo said Khan, who migrated to the United States in 1971, is “an active church goer and a husband and father, who has worked with the Taxi and Limousine Commission for 35 years.”
He has remained crime-free for 37 years, the governor said. Haitian Reginald Castel, 45, was convicted of assault in 1999 and Cuomo said Castel, who came to the United States at the age of eight, is married with four children and was deported without notice in September 2017.
“A pardon will allow Mr Castel to apply for re-entry to the United States and re-unite with his family. He has remained crime free for 19 years.”
Alisa Wellek, executive director of New York’s Immigrant Defence Project, said that in pardoning immigrant New Yorkers who face deportation, despite years of contributing to the community, Cuomo “has used a powerful tool to restore dignity to people for whom punishment will otherwise never end, simply because they were not born here.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s office and our Immigrant Clemency Project to provide immigrant New Yorkers with a fighting chance to remain with their families in the face of Trump’s hateful agenda,” she said.
Cuomo had last year announced a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policy of forced family separation on the US southern border.
To protect Caribbean and other immigrants from overly aggressive deportation tactics increasingly utilised by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the governor also issued executive orders to prohibit ICE arrests in New York state facilities without a warrant.