In the spirit of the season, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave 18 people an unbeatable gift. These people were waiting for something with dread in their hearts, and the governor’s gift is one that all politicians should model.
Donald Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have been committed to tossing as many people as possible into privately run for-profit detention centers. These people may be picking their kids up from school or getting healthcare for them when the Trump patrol swoops down to snatch them away from their families.
There is such a thing as compassion, but this president and AG seem to have forgotten its meaning — if they ever knew it, in this regard.
The individuals’ crimes were misdemeanors and non-violent and committed when they were just 16- or 17-years-old. Plus, these people had been crime free for at least 10 years. They had demonstrated “substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to community violence reduction,” according to the governor’s report. Cuomo said:
‘These New Yorkers have proved their rehabilitation, in some cases for decades, but have been unable to gain legal status or fully reenter society due to the stigma of convictions. While the federal government continues to target immigrants and threatens to tear families apart with deportation, these actions take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York.’
Cuomo issued the 18 pardons to people as rewards for their rehabilitation and as a way to remove former barriers their old criminal records presented to their immigration status. The governor’s pardon will give them immigration relief soon, if not automatically.
Each of the individuals has improved their community in various ways and remained crime-free for a significant period of time. In other words, they have lived lives of good citizenship.
In 1994, Lorena Borjas was convicted of Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree. This was the result of her being a victim of human trafficking. Borjas is a transgender woman who came from Mexico. Since her arrest, she has worked as an active advocate for immigrant and transgender communities.
One example of her contribution, is an HIV testing program for transgender sex workers that she ran. She also implemented a syringe exchange program for transwomen who are taking hormone injections.
Now, Borjas works at New York City community health centers as an educator. She has received commendations from New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, from advocates, elected officials, and community members. Now that she has been given her pardon, she is looking forward to getting her U.S. citizenship, so that she will be able to stay in NYC and continue her work in her community.
Another person Cuomo pardoned was Alexander Shilov. He was convicted of Petit Larceny and Attempted Petit Larceny in the years between 2000 and 2004. He came to the U.S. from Estonia when he was a teenager and the son of a “hard-working single mother.” That was when he developed a drug addiction that led to his misdemeanors.
Now, 35, Shilov has been sober for the past 13 years. He earned his GED and continued his education to rise to a distinguished nurse at a long-term managed care facility in Brooklyn. He also gives speeches at hospital detox units about overcoming addiction.
Shilov is a volunteer nurse in New York’s Medical Reserve Corps, and he also offers his bilingual services to his Russian-speaking community. Now, Shilov can earn his citizenship and create a life in this country with his fiancée, two infant children, and his elderly mother, whom he supports.
The other 16 people the governor pardoned were convicted of non-violent crimes and have been crime-free for 10 or more years. Their crimes stood between them and their ability to become U.S. citizens.
Featured Image via Getty Images/Mario Tama.