Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan on July 21.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan on July 21. Credit: Louis Lanzano

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday pardoned seven immigrants facing possible deportation for past criminal convictions that included theft and drug possession and used the announcement to criticize President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Cuomo said the individuals have spent years without further convictions and built lives and careers in America, but faced potential deportation because of the past convictions. State lawyers said removing the convictions that were the basis of deportation should remove the threat of deportation.

“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," 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."

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said anyone in the country illegally is subject to deportation by an immigration judge and ICE would carry out that order. Several other states, including California, have pardoned immigrants facing deportation, but the federal government hasn’t always agreed to ignore a past crime even if it was pardoned.

The University of California at Davis School of Law on its website said that under recent federal law interpretations “a state’s decision to pardon, expunge, or otherwise set aside a conviction under state law will often have no effect on the federal government’s determination to use that conviction as a basis for deportation.”

Cuomo is facing a challenge for the Democratic nomination from liberal candidate Cynthia Nixon, an activist and actress, and from Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive in the November election. Nixon has called ICE a “terrorist organization” and wants it abolished. Molinaro has criticized part of the Trump policy, which has separated some immigrant children from their families, as un-American.

“Everything Andrew Cuomo does is for his own political benefit, regardless of whether it's right, wrong or dangerous to the public,” Molinaro spokeswoman Katherine Delgado said. “In this case, it's all about trying to out-liberal Cynthia Nixon for the September primary."

Nixon’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, called Cuomo’s action positive, but said Nixon would go further to “end the deportation pipeline” by providing driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.

A spokesman for Stephanie Miner, the former Democratic mayor of Syracuse who is running on the Serve America Movement, declined to comment.

On Monday, Cuomo pardoned:

  • Tamar Samuda, 35, who was convicted 17 years ago for assault and petty larceny. She was detained by federal authorities when she returned from Jamaica for a funeral. She works as a home health care aide.
  • Carlos Suarez, 41, who was convicted in 2009 for petty larceny and has worked steadily in business since leaving the Dominican Republic. Cuomo said Suarez was detained as he was planning to attend his citizenship swearing-in ceremony in 2017.
  • Frank Barker, 43, was convicted of possession of stolen property, possession of drugs and identity theft. Cuomo said Baker, from Barbados, has been sober for eight years and works to provide housing to people with HIV and AIDS.
  • Elpidio Rodriguez, 57, was convicted of possession of drugs and drunken driving 19 years ago. The Dominican native works as a housekeeper in New York City hospitals.
  • Marino Soto, 43, was convicted of possession of drugs 12 years ago. The Colombian native owns a software company in Connecticut.
  • Ludames De La Cruz, 53, was convicted of attempted sale of drugs 17 years ago. He worked as a parking lot attendant until he was disabled on the job in 2008. The Dominican native is battling cancer.
  • Jose Rafael Cruz, 53, was convicted of selling drugs seven years ago. ICE held him for more than two years until he was released in October. The Dominican native works in food service.
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