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Paterson moves to thwart deportation of convicted legal immigrants

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Governor David Paterson says he's creating a new panel to review the cases of immigrants facing deportation because of previous criminal convictions. As Karen DeWitt reports, the governor's plan is a "challenge" to what he believes is unfair federal immigration policy.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent
The governor announced his plans in a Law Day speech, where he 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 US as a 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 US 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 US 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 New York Governor's proposal comes just days after the Arizona governor 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 US.

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," said Paterson. 

Paterson will only be in office for another eight months, his term is over in December, and he is not seeking election. 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.

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