With President Trump and the Federal Government Waging a War on our Immigrant Communities, Governor Cuomo Grants Pardons to Individuals Convicted of Minor Offenses from Deportation
Pardons Build on Governor's Record of Defending the Immigrant Community Including the First-in-the-Nation Liberty Defense Project to Provide Legal Defense and Executive Actions to Prohibit State Agencies and Law Enforcement from Inquiring About Immigration Status and to Limit ICE Access to State Buildings
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued pardons to seven individuals facing the threat of deportation and other immigration consequences as a result of previous minor criminal convictions. This is the third time Governor Cuomo has used his pardon authority to protect individuals facing potential deportation, including most recently in December where he issued pardons to 18 other individuals.
"At a time when President Trump and the Federal government are waging a war on our immigrant communities, New York stands firm in our belief that our diversity is our greatest strength," Governor Cuomo said. "While President Trump engages in policies that rip children out of the arms of their mothers and tries to ramp up the deportation of New Yorkers to advance his political agenda of hate and division, we will protect our immigrant communities. With the Statue of Liberty in our harbor, New York will always stand against the hate coming out of Washington and instead serve as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all."
These pardons are the latest actions Governor Cuomo has taken to support the immigrant community and defend immigrants against federal attacks. In 2011, he signed a wide-reaching Executive Order to ensure language access across state agencies, suspended the State's participation in a federal program that required local law enforcement to help identify deportable individuals, signed legislation holding entities that defraud immigrants accountable, and established the Office for New Americans. He launched NaturalizeNY, the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants in New York State with becoming U.S. citizens.
In 2017, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project, a State-led, public-private legal defense program to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel. In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide. The FY 2019 Budget includes an additional $10 million investment to ensure the Liberty Defense Project continues to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical services in defense of our immigrant communities.
Last month, Governor Cuomo announced a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration's policy of forced family separation on the U.S. southern border. To protect immigrants from overly aggressive deportation tactics increasingly utilized by ICE, the Governor issued executive orders to prohibit ICE arrests in state facilities without a warrant, prohibit state agencies and officers from inquiring about individual's immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service or disclosing information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of civil enforcement.
Governor Cuomo today issued pardons to the following individuals in recognition of their 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. Every recipient in is in good standing, having given back to their communities and families in a variety of ways, and having demonstrated a substantial period of crime-free, good citizenship.
Tamar Samuda, 35, left the U.S. to travel to Jamaica for family funeral, and upon return was detained by ICE as a result of convictions from 17 years ago. She was released on immigration parole in February 2018, and continues to fight her deportation. Since her convictions for low-level assault and petit larceny, she obtained a GED, and completed medical assistant training, and works in home health care and doctors' offices. She is a single mother of three school-aged children. Samuda was cleared to work as an aide in New York City public school special education, but immigration detention prevented her from doing so.
Carlos Suarez, 41, is from the Dominican Republic and was told he was ineligible for citizenship as he was about to go to his swearing-in ceremony in September of 2017. Instead of becoming a citizen, he was told to check in with ICE monthly, which he has been doing. He has been crime-free for nine years since a 2009 conviction for petit larceny and has been steadily employed in business analytics.
Frank Barker, 43, is from Barbados and has been crime-free for nine years. He was convicted of criminal possession of stolen property and controlled substances and identity theft from a short term period of criminal activity resulting from drug addiction. He has been sober for eight years and works as a coordinator at an HIV/AIDS supportive housing provider in New York City, is a certified substance abuse counselor and a community advocate in the Bronx. He is the financial provider for his family including his daughter with special needs.
Elpidio Rodriguez, 57, is from the Dominican Republic and has been crime-free for 19 years. He works in housekeeping at New York City hospitals and serves as a caregiver and financial provider for his elderly parents, wife, three adult children and two grandchildren. He was convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance and of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Marino Soto, 43, is from Colombia and has been crime-free for 12 years. He owns a software company in Connecticut and volunteers with humanitarian organizations. He was convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Ludames De La Cruz, age 53, is from the Dominican Republic, and has been crime-free for 17 years after his conviction for attempted sale of a controlled substance. He worked as a parking lot attendant and in food service until he was injured on the job in 2008 and became disabled. He also has been diagnosed with PTSD from being the victim of several gunpoint robberies. He is now battling cancer and if deported to the Dominican Republic he would have no support there as his siblings and nieces and nephews extended family all live in New York City, where they visit and offer support during his illness.
Jose Rafael Cruz, age 53, is from the Dominican Republic, and has been crime free for seven years following his conviction for criminal sale of a controlled substance. He was in ICE custody for 2 and a half years before being released in October 2017 on bond. Cruz works in the food service industry and supports his ailing father as well as the daughter of his deceased sister.
Governor Cuomo has used his ability to grant clemency to reward rehabilitation, reunite families, protect against deportation and help New Yorkers become fully contributing members of our society. Since taking office, the Governor has issued 34 pardons, 12 commutations and 140 conditional youth pardons.
Individuals interested in applying for clemency should visit Governor Cuomo's clemency website - 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, or to send in support letters for loved ones who have applied themselves.