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Paterson Pardons Immigrants, Feds Don’t Get Off So Easily

This week, a New York Times article sheds light on a winning state policy that aims to dull the impact of harsh enforcement laws on immigrant residents. New York Governor Paterson has created a mechanism to pardon immigrants who have been caught in the cross hairs of strict enforcement policies. The panel would cancel deportation orders based on old or minor convictions for legal permanent residents “who have contributed as New Yorkers and who deserve relief from deportation or indefinite detention.”

These are New York residents who have been living and working in our state for decades. It's unclear why the federal government insists on targeting these immigrants; it only has the resources to remove only 400,000 immigrants, and more importantly, has a mandate to focus on the most dangerous among them. In past remarks on the panel, Paterson took strict federal immigration laws to task: "Some of our immigration laws, particularly with respect to deportation, are embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible. In New York we believe in renewal. In New York we believe in rehabilitation."

Not everyone is easily convinced. Opponents of the governor’s effort claim that he should instead use the state’s limited resources to deport undocumented immigrants. This deluded argument is disconnected from what’s really at stake here--yet another example of the fixation on legal status that clouds any productive discussion of immigration issues. In reality, the panel would boost the economic contributions of pardoned immigrants, who can continue supporting their families and adding to our state’s economy—an excellent investment of New York’s limited resources. Although it’s only a small-scale reform, it’s not hard to see the ripple effects for the families and communities across the state.

The panel is the first of its kind, and should serve as a model to other states grappling with the fallout of broken federal immigration policy.

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Oct 22, 2010 in Immigration
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