Paterson to Create Immigrant Deportation Review Panel

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Gov. David Paterson says he’s creating a new panel to review the cases of immigrants facing deportation because of previous criminal convictions. The governor says the plan is a "challenge" to what he believes is unfair federal immigration policy.

The governor said the panel would recommend pardons for immigrants believed to be unfairly deported for past criminal convictions.

"Some of these charges are very minor in nature," said Paterson.

Paterson says he was inspired to create the panel because of the case of Quing Hong Wu, a Chinese immigrant who came to the U.S. as small child, committed a robbery as a teenager, and completed his punishment for the crime, three years in jail. Wu, now 29 works in the technology industry and tried to apply for U.S. citizenship when he ran into trouble. Wu was detained and slated for deportation. The governor pardoned him in March.

Paterson says he’s noticed that there are a number of similar cases that need to be examined. He says there may be thousands of immigrants who entered the U.S. legally and were convicted of crimes that did not at the time carry the consequence of deportation, but who are now being deported for those crimes anyway. Paterson says people who were convicted of "egregious" crimes, or who are a danger to society, will not be considered by his new panel.

The governor’s proposal comes just days after his Arizona counterpart signed a controversial new law that requires police, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an undocumented immigrant, to demand proof of citizenship. Those who can’t immediately provide papers will be detained for possible deportation, if law enforcement can provide “probable cause” to expel that person from the U.S.

Paterson says his proposal is not a direct rebuke to Arizona specifically, but is a “challenge” to federal immigration policy.

“The overall standard of symbolism that we’re trying to address is that our national immigration laws are seriously in need of reform,” Paterson said.

Paterson will only be in office for another eight months. The governor says he hopes his successor will follow the new tradition that he is creating, but acknowledges that the next governor is under no obligation to do so.