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November 1, 2010

"The Quality of Mercy in New York: A Different Kind of State Challenge to Federal Immigration Policy"

The title of this post is the title of this great guest post by Margaret Love over at the ACS blog.  Here is how that posts starts and ends:

On October 21, The New York Times reported that Governor David Paterson had received more than 1000 pardon requests from legal immigrants facing deportation because of old or minor state crimes.  In May, Paterson had announced the creation of a panel to consider such requests, ostensibly to inject fairness into what he described as an "embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible" system that expels immigrants without considering the possibility that deportation in a particular case might be unwise or unjust.  Now, his term nearly up, the deadline for decision is fast approaching.  Having stirred this pot, whatever he does is bound to be controversial....

With the prospect of dozens or even hundreds of Paterson pardon grants becoming more real, The Times found advocates for immigrants euphoric: "People are being deported for indiscretions of their youth, and it's ripping families apart," one said. Another called for a replication of the pardon panel "far and wide."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform was reportedly less thrilled: "As a general rule, we would be opposed to governors or other local officials stacking the deck so that people who could legitimately be deported get to remain in the country."  FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman complained that the governor was superseding the authority of Congress. "This is not his determination to make," he said....

Paterson's proposed pardons are well within the dispensing authority federal immigration law itself gives to governors.  Exempting particular individuals from the penalty of deportation is certainly not gaming the system, as Mr. Mehlman's use of the phrase "stacking the deck" would suggest....

In the end, Governor Paterson will be called upon to defend the merits of any particular pardons he issues or declines to issue in the next three months.  The evident care he is taking in staffing the hundreds of petitions filed with his panel evidences an awareness that his tenure as governor may be judged as much by his final acts of compassion as on anything else he has done in that office.  And he is to be commended, not criticized, for deciding to use his constitutional power in such a transparent and democratic way.  We should all wish him success in this endeavor, and hope that other governors and pardoning authorities -- including President Obama, who has yet to pardon anyone, much less a deportable immigrant -- will be encouraged by his example.

November 1, 2010 at 01:20 PM | Permalink


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