New York Governor to Help Legal Residents Avoid Deportation for Minor Crimes


New York Gov. David Paterson is appointing a panel to review pardon requests from legal residents facing mandatory deportation for minor or old crimes. As I noted in a column last month, legislation Congress passed in 1996 made longtime residents subject to deportation as "aggravated felons" for trivial offenses, including marijuana possession. In such cases, the only recourse is to erase the conviction via a pardon. "Some of our immigration laws, particularly with respect to deportation, are embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible," Paterson said yesterday. "In New York, we believe in rehabilitation." Here is the reaction from the Department of Homeland Security:

DHS continues to focus on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities. At the same time, we are applying common sense and using discretion on a case-by-case basis to ensure that our enforcement is meeting our priorities.

The department's smart, effective immigration enforcement has led to commonsensical uses of discretion such as the three-year detention of Jerry Lemaine, a legal immigrant from Haiti who has lived in this country since he was 3. What was the risk Lemaine presented to the security of our communities? He was caught with small amounts of pot a couple of times. Now free but still vulnerable to deportation, he would be a good candidate for one of Paterson's pardons.

NEXT: VAT Pack? Some Republicans Support Value Added Tax

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s awfully white of him.

    1. **groooooaaaan**

      But also **chuckle**

    2. Justice is blind.

  2. I think criminal aliens should be deported. I don’t care if he did live here since he was 3. Don’t commit a crime. The problem is not the deportation. The problem is that pot shouldn’t be a crime.

    1. Well, until we reverse the criminalization of all aspects of American life, I think reserving deportation for people convicted of violent crimes is a much better way to go.

      1. Well, violent crimes and poor taste. If you dress funny or don’t bathe enough–off you go!

    2. The problem is ALSO the deportation. How can you object to the law but be okay with the punishment?

  3. Andrew Sullivan must be celebrating this one.

  4. Sounds to me like this dude is trying to do the right thing. Well done.


  5. I don’t know quite what to think. It’s not a bad motivation, but how about simplifying the laws and arresting fewer people in the first place? Oh wait, that wouldn’t increase the power of the government. Never mind then.

    1. What is the motivation, in your opinion?

  6. Minor Crimes..hmm, I guess mugging is minor crime.

    In March, Paterson pardoned Quing Wu, an executive and Chinese immigrant who as a teenager was convicted of a


    What is a mugging these days in NY anyway? An offense similar to a parking violation, offenders are issued a $25 ticket?

    Perhaps crimes are relative to later position in life. Example: Car wash employee -> mugging = felony crime, CEO -> mugging = minor civil offense.

    Well, I suppose it’s minor if he didn’t stab, shoot, or bludgeon the victim to death, at least not the time he was caught for, it’s “minor.” Most likely he just wanted a purse or wallet, completely understandable. We privileged Native Americans can just go to the store and buy one. We abuse and mistreat immigrants so badly they have stick a gun in the face or knife to the throat of someone who has one and threaten they’re going to kill them if they don’t hand theirs over.

    Yes, I’m being sarcastic, and I’m not arguing Wu should or shouldn’t go, I really don’t care one way or the other. Simply questioning the definition of words like “minor” and “trivial” as used wit this article.

    As a stand alone crime I would consider heroin trafficking a “minor” or “trivial” crime. Mugging I’m not so sure about. Now we have a victim in a violent crime that has taken a lot of lives in this country.

  7. The sentence in question says “minor or old” crimes.

    And the standard Patterson promulgates is that the pardon recipient demonstrate that they have demonstrated that they are reformed.

    So sure, I can see a situation where someone committed an assault but then had no further criminal activity and completed their education, got a job, got married, paid taxes for ten years, etc. It would seem fairly ridiculous to me to deport such a person, especially if deportation was not the penalty for their crime at the time it was committed.

    1. Actually I was looking at the title: “New York Governor to Help Legal Residents Avoid Deportation for Minor Crimes”

  8. And as nice as this is for immigrants, what about actual citizens who have minor criminal records which prevent them from obtaining student loans, etc?

    1. They should have known better?

  9. Perhaps crimes are relative to later position in life. Example: Car wash employee -> mugging = felony crime, CEO -> mugging = minor civil offense.

    Actually – yes. This would probably be the case.

    When we’re talking about the pardon power, we’re talking about looking at the totality of the situation and making a judgment about what’s just for that particular individual.

    So sure – if it turned out that Bill Gates’ dark secret is that he is not an American citizen, and that he beat someone up when he was 16, I would say we should give him a mulligan.

    1. Always liked Bill’s mug shot from when he was arrested for weed. But having seen that image I’m skeptical of the kid having it in him to “beat someone up” at any age.

      (Bill may be from another planet, the jury is still out on that one.)

  10. This does nothing but politicize the questions of justice long term… The first time some one of these immigrants does something after being pardoned, it’ll be Willie Horton all over again. Why would future Governors of New York take that chance? …in fact, doesn’t it encourage some of them to be harsher on hard luck cases just to show they’re tough on crime…

    People remember Bill Clinton for a number of reasons–to me, he’ll always be the man who executed a retarded kid just to prove he was tough on crime.

    I don’t see the whims of some Governor as the solution to these problems.

    Make a fast track to citizenship for people who’ve been here since before they were eighteen, and don’t disqualify them for any crimes but violent crime or federal crimes?

    Now that makes sense.

    1. Well, I think it’s obvious what’s really behind this is Paterson doesn’t like Arizona’s new law. It’s little more than Democrat v. Republican in a fight for votes. Arizonans by the rules modify a law, so who is in power there, that’s all that counts. If it was Democrats then it would be a Republican governor using his pardon powers.

      I prefer to stay out of these things, since I have no faith in either party and really dislike manipulative opportunists.

      1. “I prefer to stay out of these things, since I have no faith in either party and really dislike manipulative opportunists.”

        That’s all it is…and like I said, I think it’s a double edged sword that’ll end up hanging over the heads of some really unfortunate people…

        They thought it was bad trying to get through the federal government, just wait–eventually they’ll have to find a way past the State of New York too.

        1. Agreed. This little game between the parties weaves quite the tangled web, problem is it entangles us, no one would even care if it was only those doing the weaving who ultimately suffered for their own actions and left the rest of us out of their nonsense. It doesn’t work that way with government, they play, we pay. And because that’s the case every single action by government should be carefully scrutinized and treated with skepticism.

  11. We could avoid the issue of deciding which crimes are “minor” or “trivial” by simply treating legals the same way we treat those of us who were born here. Or at most, maybe only kick out the ones who chose to come as adults?

  12. Old crimes? Like killing game in the King’s forest?

    1. Surely the King can spare one small rabbit, my children had no more arms or legs to left to put in the meat grinder and we were hungry.

      1. Ten years hard labor, M. Valjean!

  13. This is great news my family have lived in the United States for over 40 years and not all members were educated enough to attain citizenship.We all make mistakes as humans. My brother-in-law whom is now married with children is caught up in this immigrant sweep for a crime he was convicted of 20 years ago. For all the people that oppose human laws think twice what if this was yourself or loved ones–I am sure your view would be different. This is the 21st century. People are not human cargos. This category of law is different we are allowed to make mistakes as humans and then we learn from the experience.

    1. This is great news my family have lived in the United States for over 40 years and not all members were educated enough to attain citizenship

      I call bullshit. I am up for citizenship next month and the questions on English, civics and history tests are so primitive, a retarded amoeba can pass them with flying colors.

      Having said that, whole lot good Patterson would do. For immigration purposes, a pardon is still a conviction. Don’t understand what the fuss is about… on either side.

      1. Can’t they seal or destroy the record so that the conviction never occurred? Or at least nobody can prove it ever occurred?

    2. he’s not being executed, he is being returned to his home country because he is a criminal

      he made his mistake as a human and is learning from his experience: the lesson is there is a downside to being a criminal

      1. Yeah, but who isn’t? I’m an unindicted felon myself. I did knowingly and with malice aforethought encode a DVD I owned a copy of so I could watch it on my iPhone. You probably are a felon too, whether you know it or not.

  14. “Some of our immigration laws, particularly with respect to deportation, are embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible,” Paterson said yesterday.

    As I read this I pictured Fred Armisen’s version of Paterson saying it while bumping into the camera. I’m not proud of it, but it seems that in this instance parody has replaced reality in my mind.

  15. “People are not human cargos.”

    And Americans shouldn’t be creating a servant class of immigrants by encouraging people to come in through the back door just to have them under their thumbs. If someone doesn’t want to do their own lawn, their own maid work, take care or their own children, then do it legally and pay the going rate. If they can’t afford that rate they are living beyond their means. If they can afford it, but won’t pay the fair price they’re just lazy and greedy.

    Using people like a slave class doesn’t help them. We haven’t got over the stigma from the last time some people in this country did something like that. And we’re letting it happen again?

    Certainly those seeking true citizenship is a great thing. But taking advantage of those who don’t even want citizenship is despicable. It doesn’t help people to enable the rulers of the countries they love to remain corrupt by making slave laborers of the the poor they couldn’t care less about.

    By the way, no one treats those here illegally as roughly as those here legally from the same countries. They treat them as complete expendables.

    This is a subject I know something about, I’ve been a real welcome wagon to new arrivals, especially for, but not restricted to, those who had fled communist hells. People gave me more crap for helping those than for any others.

    And it’s really not that tough, as Bastard points out. I’ve helped more than a few prepare for the tests, and they aren’t as difficult as some want you to mistakenly believe.

    And it doesn’t require a pardon to keep someone here who messed up. Believe it or not immigration judges will listen to us if we care enough to get involved. I’ve helped keep several people keep themselves from being deported including one with three separate felony cases of distribution of dangerous drugs. That last time it took some effort including the gathering of over 100 signed letters from the public outlining the benefits of having him here, explaining how he had helped them, and asking to let him stay. He’s still here. With luck he won’t mess up in the next 6 years, I can’t and won’t help a 4th time.

    If people really care they should get involved, you can’t do it by sitting back and supporting this law or opposing that one. When you meet an immigrant you feel has potential to be the kind of American you’d like to see, then give the person or the family a hand, damnit!

    How’d you like it if you were the stranger in a strange land? Nobody comes here for no reason, somebody coming to become one of us deserves a chance.

    By the way, Bastard, I have a good feeling about you. Something tells me you will be an asset. We need individuals, and you seem to have that covered. Don’t care where you are from, it doesn’t matter, you’re my fellow countryman now.

    Leisa, it’s never easy when it involves something worth having. I take it everything worked out in the end right? It wasn’t easy for my family either, but we escaped to this country, maybe that makes a difference, no one in my family ever complained about or resented the difficult change coming here. What kind of fool resents the incredible fortune of a refuge to escape to. My grandparents never did speak English well, but their children, and their children, and their children have prospered here. And family takes care of each other, right?

    Those who came here because they wanted to may want to take warning from those who fled here. We better start looking out for each other by wising up and not being suckers to the con-artist party hacks before we let these politicians and their divide and conquer tactics destroy us all. The world is out of refuges to flee to.


    Throw out–ALL –promoters of illegal immigration in Washington, but that includes Governors, Mayors, judges and officials. We elected them and we can dump them in the midterm and November elections. Remember Nevada is a bastion of a very large illegal alien population and many will try and vote for Sen. Harry Reid? Just like the refuge state of California. Both are being crippled by the foreign national with their hands outstretched for free welfare benefits. Learn who is your immigration nemesis at NumbersUSA. IT’S NO WONDER ARIZONA IS IS CRIPPLED BY A BUDGET MELTDOWN AND CRIMINALS ACTIVITY RUNNING RAMPANT. THEY SHOULD HAVE BUILT THE WALL CORRECTLY AND NOT CUT CORNERS. INSTEAD WE PAY A TRILLION DOLLARS FOR TWO FOREIGN WARS, AND OUR COUNTRY IS WIDE OPEN TO THE CRIMINALS WHO ENTER HERE. PUT THE NATIONAL GUARD WITH WEAPONS ON THE BORDER–NOW.

    We are fighting to stop any more AMNESTIES & to unite the American people–for–a moratorium on–ALL–immigration.There should be no restraints on funding any of these measures when it comes to the American people’s protection, for jobs, taxes, infrastructure, ecosystem, population growth and more. Go to NumbersUSA website to learn more about the illegal immigration welfare costs, statistics and the battle for our survival of our language, our flag and constitution. View the video of the single fence from a small aircraft and wide open regions at American Patrol site


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.