June 21, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Grants Clemency to Ground Zero Recovery Worker from Queens

TOP Governor Cuomo Grants Clemency to Ground Zero...

Pardon Grant Removes Grounds for Deportation

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a pardon to Carlos Cardona of Queens who was convicted of a non-violent crime in 1990.

As a result of changes to federal immigration enforcement policy, Mr. Cardona has been detained since February, after appearing for a routine U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appointment. He has been held in Hudson Correctional Facility in Kearny, NJ and recently applied for clemency in New York. With this pardon, Mr. Cardona and his attorney would be able to reopen the Final Order of Removal showing that the grounds for deportation are no longer valid.

"In the more than 30-years since Carlos Cardona has lived in this country, he has built a family and given back to his community, including in the aftermath of 9/11 when he assisted with Ground Zero recovery efforts at the expense of his own health," Governor Cuomo said. "It is my hope this action will not only reunite Mr. Cardona with his wife and daughter, but also send a message about the values of fairness and equality that New York was founded upon."

In 1986, Cardona immigrated to the U.S., fleeing local violence in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, where his brother served as a police officer and his family faced threats from local gangs for their involvement in law enforcement and local business. At 21-years-old, Carlos Cardona was convicted of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in Queens County on August 30, 1990. Cardona, now 48, has lived crime-free for the past 27 years.

A civic-minded New Yorker, Cardona worked as a cleanup and hazmat recovery worker rehabilitating Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  He spent four months removing hazardous material from the wreckage, in order to make a safer space for other recovery workers and neighbors of the disaster site.  He went on to marry an American citizen who is also a former Ground Zero recovery worker. Cardona’s 19-year old daughter is currently in college working toward earning a degree to teach elementary students.

As a result of Cardona’s work on Ground Zero, he suffers from acute respiratory issues, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Without receiving this clemency, Cardona’s health issues would not be adequately addressed in his home country of Colombia.

Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation, said,  "I commend Governor Cuomo for this act of compassion for a New Yorker who sacrificed his health, in service to others at Ground Zero after the 9/11. Mr. Cardona has given back so much and conclusively turned his life around. With this pardon, Mr. Cardona will be able to make his case to stay in this country with his family, and continue to receive care for his serious medical conditions."

JoAnne Page, President and CEO of the Fortune Society, said, "I want to applaud Governor Cuomo for pardoning Mr. Cardona. I am a child of immigrants, born in a country built by immigrants who have made America great over and over again. In my 28 years as CEO of the Fortune Society, I have seen thousands of people with criminal justice become pillars of strength in their communities and families. Mr. Cardona has lived a law-abiding life for almost 30 years. He was a recovery worker after 9/11 and risked his own life to save those of New Yorkers whom he did not even know. His deportation would be a tragic loss to his family and to New York State. In issuing a pardon to Mr. Cardona, Governor Cuomo demonstrates both compassion and courageous leadership."

Joanne Macri, Chair of the Immigration Committee of the New York State Bar Association, said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for choosing to grant a pardon in this case. His act supports Mr. Cardona’s efforts to remain in New York, alongside his wife and children, in the community which has served as his home for more than 30 years, and with access to life-saving healthcare not available in Colombia. This pardon grants mercy to a deserving New Yorker with no other means of relief from the life-altering consequences of a criminal conviction that has followed him for 27 years."

Under the New York Constitution and State law, the Governor has the authority to grant commutations and pardons. The Governor has pardoned 115 individuals since taking office in 2011. The Governor's Executive Clemency Review Team continues to actively review pending applications for clemency.

These actions continue the Governor’s efforts to break down barriers for people with criminal convictions, which includes his creation of a Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration to alleviate barriers for those who have criminal convictions. In 2016, the Governor accepted recommendations from the Council for executive actions, which include requiring the Board of Parole to account for an inmate’s current risk to public safety when making a release decision, and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to businesses seeking to hire formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.

Individuals interested in applying for clemency should visit Governor Cuomo’s clemency website at www.ny.gov/clemency. The website is a central resource for those seeking to learn more about clemency, eligibility requirements, and the application process, including submitting application materials electronically. Family members and friends of individuals serving prison sentences are encouraged to visit the website and apply for clemency on behalf of their family member or friend.

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