Cuomo Pardons Former Ground Zero Worker

Cuomo Pardons Former Ground Zero Worker

Carlos Cardona is facing deportation for a nearly 30-year-old conviction.

By Gaby Galvin, Staff Writer | June 22, 2017

Cuomo Pardons Former Ground Zero Worker
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a rally, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in New York. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pictured, pardoned Carlos Humberto Cardona Wednesday. (MARY ALTAFFER/AP)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned a former ground zero worker fighting deportation to Colombia for a drug conviction 27 years ago.

Carlos Humberto Cardona, 48, fled Colombia in 1986 when his family was threatened by gangs, entering the U.S. illegally through Mexico. In 1990, Cardona pleaded guilty to selling a small amount of cocaine to an undercover police officer and spent 45 days in jail, his lawyer said. He has lived crime-free since then.

After the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Cardona volunteered as a cleanup and hazmat recovery worker, from which he developed acute respiratory issues.

Cardona’s health issues are what allowed him to stay in the U.S. after he missed a 2001 immigration hearing court date and was scheduled to be deported. Through federal programs providing medical care for those suffering from health problems after the Sept. 11 attack, Cardona was permitted to stay in the U.S. granted he check in regularly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But shortly after President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown in February, which made deporting illegal immigrants with prior criminal convictions a priority, ICE officials detained Cardona and have held him ever since. Cardona, a Queens resident who is married to a U.S. citizen, applied to New York’s clemency program in April and was pardoned by Cuomo Wednesday afternoon.

“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 said. “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.”

Immigration authorities will determine whether Cardona is eventually deported, but his clemency will allow his attorney to prove the grounds for deporting him are no longer valid, according to The New York Times.

Since 2013, Cuomo has granted seven pardons to people at risk of deportation. Applications for the state’s clemency program have increased since Trump’s election, Cuomo’s counsel said.