Paterson Seeks to Counter Deportation Laws

WABC-TV (New York), May 4, 2010

Gov. David Paterson stepped into the immigration debate Monday, saying he would create the nation’s first “pardon panel” to investigate requests of legal immigrants facing deportation because of past convictions.

Paterson, proposing the measure as the nation is embroiled in conflict over an Arizona law that critics say would encourage racial profiling, said he would pardon immigrants if they meet requirements including rehabilitation and demonstrate they’re not a danger to society.

Paterson is seeking to combat what he calls harsh and rigid federal measures that result in deporting of immigrants who have shown considerable rehabilitation.

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Paterson said he will seek to use a governor’s pardon as a tool to blunt what he called the rigid federal rules for deportation even of immigrants who have successfully engaged in a new life in America.

“To be sure, there are some individuals whose crimes are egregious or who pose a threat to public safety. And they are justly removed from the United States,” Paterson said. “But there are others for whom the situation is far less clear. For them, our national immigration laws leave no room to consider mitigating circumstances. But in New York, we believe in rehabilitation. And we believe in renewal. And we believe in second chances.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures says immigration bills are proliferating, with more than 1,500 introduced last year, but none like Paterson’s idea. {snip}

Paterson’s staff said they know of just a handful of cases that could qualify for a pardon at this point, but expect more after Monday’s announcement. The panel will comprise executive branch workers, and no extra cost is expected.

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