Gov. David Paterson gave two dozen immigrants early Christmas presents Friday, granting them pardons as he called them "productive members of society" whom the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement would otherwise have deported.
In pardoning the 24 individuals, Paterson acknowledged they have committed crimes, but noted those infractions, most of them minor, happened a long time ago and none have occurred since.
"They have paid their debt to society," Paterson said. "They have benefited their family, have been good neighbors in their community and would otherwise be enterprising citizens but for the fact that what seems to be often arbitrary and random enforcement on behalf of ICE has placed them where they are now."
Paterson went on to condemn the inflexibility of some immigration laws, saying they do not serve the interest of justice in the cases of the individuals he pardoned Friday morning.
In a statement, Paterson said his administration has reviewed more than 1,100 pardon applications and found that federal immigration laws are often "excessively harsh and in need of modernization."
In May 2010, Paterson created a special Immigration Pardon Panel to collect information and provide recommendations on pardons for deserving individuals to help them avoid deportation.
"That our federal government does not credit rehabilitation, nor account for human suffering is antithetical to the ideals this country represents," Paterson said. "With these pardons, I have selected cases that exemplify the values of New York State and any civilized society: atonement, forgiveness, compassion, and the need to achieve justice, and not simply strict adherence to unjust statutes. I will not turn my back on New Yorkers who enrich our lives and care for those who suffer."
White had only served six months.
"My decision may be an affront to some and a joy to others; but my objective is to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event," Paterson said.