New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned Carlos Cardona, a man who helped clean up Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, for a crime that he committed 27 years ago. The governor's pardon may protect Cardona, who entered the U.S. illegally, from deportation.
Cardona, 48, was arrested on Feb. 28 by authorities from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who have been ordered by President Trump to follow stricter rules on illegal immigration. He has yet to be deported; a statement from ICE says that Cardona is being detained "in accordance with his final order of removal from May 2000."
According to the statement, Cardona had previously been enrolled in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program, a part of the Alternatives to Detention program. He has also filed a stay of removal that is currently pending review.
A native of Santiago de Cali, Cardona first came to the U.S. in 1986 when he was 16 years old. In 1990, he was convicted for selling a controlled substance. New York Daily News reports that the crime was nonviolent.
After serving his sentence, Cardona worked in construction and married an American woman named Liliana. They have a 19-year-old daughter in college.
Both Cardona and his wife helped with Ground Zero recovery following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The Independent reports that he later developed depression, anxiety and respiratory issues. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is reportedly quite common amongst Ground Zero responders.
New York Daily News reports that Governor Cuomo's pardon came days after it reported that Cardona might be deported.
"In the more than 30 years since Carlos Cardona has lived in this country, he has built a family and given back to his community, including in the aftermath of 9/11 when he assisted with Ground Zero recovery efforts at the expense of his own health," Cuomo stated. "It is my hope this action will not only reunite Mr. Cardona with his wife and daughter, but also send a message about the values of fairness and equality that New York was founded upon."
The pardon may allow Cardona to reopen his final order of removal since the previous grounds for his deportation are no longer applicable. However, gubernatorial or presidential pardons do not waive all reasons for deportation. Given President Trump's strict stance on immigration, it is uncertain whether the pardon will cause Cardona to be released.
Though the outcome remains in doubt, several groups have praised Cuomo's decision. The Hispanic Federation, the state bar association, the Fortune Society and other members of government have spoken out regarding the pardon.
Democratic state Rep. Joseph Crowley wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and U.S. ICE Director Thomas Homan urging them to release Cardona.
"Mr. Cardona is deserving of our thanks," Crowley wrote, "not the cold shoulder."