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Pardons for immigrants with criminal records emerge as a tool of resistance to Trump’s deportation agenda


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: Pardons for immigrants with criminal records emerge as a tool of resistance to Trump’s deportation agenda

  • Rural Oregon sheriffs lead charge to repeal state’s sanctuary law

  • D.A. charges Pittsburgh mom after toddler’s mysterious death from fentanyl in sippy cup

  • Report shows that formerly incarcerated people ‘rarely get the chance to make up the education they missed’

  • North Carolina mother charged in son’s drowning death during Hurricane Florence

  • Whitey Bulger, mob boss who became a snitch and then a fugitive, was beaten to death in prison

  • Chicago protestors shut down courthouse over cash bail, secure meeting with chief judge

In the Spotlight

Pardons for immigrants with criminal records emerge as a tool of resistance to Trump’s deportation agenda

Last night, as some people scrambled to perfect their Halloween costumes, dozens of immigrants facing the threat of deportation crowded into a room at New York University’s law school, eager to learn about a possible longshot strategy to stay in the country: asking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for a pardon. These immigrants are at risk of deportation because of past criminal convictions, from felonies to misdemeanors like shoplifting, turnstile jumping, or low-level drug possession, for which they have served their sentences. For many of them who face mandatory deportation, a pardon is their only protection. For some, it may even clear a path to citizenship. “All these people walk around with the knowledge that ICE could end the lives they have built here without even a moment’s notice,” Jane Shim, staff attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), told the Daily Appeal. This clinic was a part of IDP’s new Immigrant Clemency Project, which will help “determine eligibility for individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system and face disproportionate immigration consequences,” according to IDP. “As the Trump Administration continues waging war on immigrant communities, a gubernatorial pardon is a unique safeguard.” [Immigrant Defense Project]

As the Trump administration ramps up immigration enforcement, “states are making a lot of statements about how they will protect their immigrant communities, and pardons are a great uniquely state-level solution,” Shim, the attorney who has been organizing the project, told the Daily Appeal. “We think of it as being an anti-Trump initiative.” Shim explained that pardons should not be confused with commutations, which typically reduce sentences. Pardons are a different form of clemency, typically granted long after a sentence has been served. The state usually wants to see that the person has turned his or her life around. Pardons protect the recipient from the continuing effects of the conviction long afterward, including, in some cases, deportation. In New York, Shim explained, this is not without precedent. “Governor David Patterson had an immigration pardon panel that specifically granted pardons for preventing deportations.”

Shim said people generally lack the resources to seek a pardon without counsel, because putting together an application is pretty involved. Last year, IDP coordinated with various legal service providers to submit pardon applications before the end of the year, when they are typically granted. Cuomo ended up granting 18 out of approximately 30 applications IDP submitted last December. At the time Cuomo said, “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.”

IDP believes that the model is something other states can use, even though each state has its own rules. Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown granted pardons to 56 people who had completed their sentences years prior. Five of them were immigrants facing deportation, two of whom came to the U.S. as child refugees. According to the Washington Post, one of the immigrants pardoned is now “active in his church and volunteers for a youth sports program,” and another, who had been convicted of kidnapping, robbery, and firearm charges, “is now the recycling program director of Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley.” [Kristine Phillips / Washington Post] Possibly influenced by a segment on “Fox and Friends,” Trump tweeted the day after the pardons were announced:

Pardons for immigrants with criminal records have emerged as one tool of resistance to the Trump administration’s deportation efforts. But historically, pardons also were used to correct for excessive punishments and were granted frequently. In 2008, the Mississippi governor’s decision to suspend the sentence of a person convicted of murder “sent shock waves across the state,” according to a local news source. “But what the governor did has been a common practice for many years in Mississippi.” Attorney Andy Taggart who has written a book on Mississippi politics commented, “It’s long, long been the custom and tradition in the state of Mississippi for governors to either commute, or suspend, or in some cases even pardon those who had served as a trusty in the Governor’s Mansion.” [Jon Kalahar / WLOX]

In 2013, Governing reported that pardons are “increasingly rare among governors, who fear political backlash if a pardoned criminal should reoffend,” adding that various governors in the national spotlight from both parties, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, and Massachusetts’s Deval Patrick, had at the time granted no pardons at all. P.S. Ruckman, a professor of political science, argues that the reason for the precipitous drop in governors’ pardons since the 1960s is political. “Some governors think, ‘why should I do this? It won’t benefit me politically and it might hurt me.’ There’s some very crass political calculating going on,” says Ruckman, “and people suffer because of it.” Pardons have become synonymous with the restoration of civil rights after the completion of a sentence and are often made at the end of a governor’s tenure. “You really see what they believe when they’re a lame duck,” says Rachel Barkow, a law professor at New York University. [Maggie Clark / Governing]

Back in 2001, the New York Times reported that pardon powers were coming under scrutiny because many feared that governors were granting them too liberally, especially as favors for allies. The idea that clemency could correct for excessive punishments barely got a mention. Now, despite the paucity of clemency, the focus is at least where it should be: providing a check on harsh sentences and collateral consequences doled out by the courts and the legislature. [William Glaberson / New York Times]

Stories From The Appeal

An immigrant indentifying herself only as Vioney, who spent six months in an ICE detention facility, holds her grandson for the first time while being reunited with family members at Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon, in September. [Photo Illustration by Anagraph / Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Rural Oregon Sheriffs Lead Charge to Repeal State’s Sanctuary Law. More than one dozen sheriffs support Measure 105 that would allow for cooperation with federal authorities even when an immigrant suspect has not been apprehended for any crime. [Mike Faulk]

D.A. Charges Pittsburgh Mom After Toddler’s Mysterious Death From Fentanyl in Sippy Cup. Despite looming questions about what happened, Jhenea Pratt is now facing life without parole. [Joshua Vaughn]

Stories From Around the Country

Report shows that formerly incarcerated people ‘rarely get the chance to make up the education they missed’: A new report from the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) reveals “how incarceration, rather than helping people turn their lives around, cements their place at the bottom of the educational ladder,” author Lucius Couloute writes. PPI found that 25 percent of formerly incarcerated people have no high school degree, twice as many as in the general public. The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is 27 percent, PPI previously found, but the rate differs by education level; for those without educational credentials, it is “nearly impossible” to find a job. “Formerly incarcerated people without a high school diploma or GED face unemployment rates 2 to 5 times higher than their peers in the general public,” with the worst outcomes experienced by Black women. “We need a new and evidence-based policy framework that addresses K-12 schooling, prison education programs, and re-entry systems,” the report concludes, offering four recommendations. [Lucius Couloute / Prison Policy Initiative]

North Carolina mother charged in son’s drowning death during Hurricane Florence: In a sure contender for cruelest prosecution of the year, a North Carolina mother has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 1-year-old son, who drowned while she tried to save him in Hurricane Florence floodwaters. Dazia Ideah Lee, 20, of Charlotte drove around barricades on a highway “that resulted in the tragic drowning death of her 1-year-old son,” Kaiden Lee-Welch, the Union County Sheriff’s Office said Monday in a statement on Facebook. Lee was also charged with a misdemeanor for driving on a closed highway. “We continue to pray for all those suffering as a result of this child’s death,” Sheriff Eddie Cathey said, while increasing the suffering of the child’s mother. According to the sheriff’s office, Lee drove until her car hit rushing water. “She managed to free herself and Kaiden, who was in a car seat, but lost her grip on him in the rushing water.” [Joe Sutton / CNN]

Whitey Bulger, mob boss who became a snitch and then a fugitive, was beaten to death in prison: “James (Whitey) Bulger, the South Boston mobster and F.B.I. informer who was captured after 16 years on the run” and given two life sentences following “a murderous reign of terror that inspired” books and films “was found beaten to death on Tuesday in a West Virginia prison. He was 89,” reports the New York Times. For 15 years he had been a federal informer, and the authorities turned a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for his snitching. “Beyond corrupting agents with bribes, the government said, the arrangement helped him conceal 19 murders, learn the identities of witnesses who later turned up dead, and send an innocent man to prison for a killing that Mr. Bulger had committed. It also led to a re-evaluation of rules for dealing with informers.” [Robert D. McFadden / New York Times] It is not yet clear why the prison was unable or unwilling to prevent or stop the beating death.

Chicago protestors shut down courthouse, secure meeting with chief judge: “Demonstrators pushing for an end to cash bail in Cook County shut down the entrance of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Tuesday afternoon,” reports Patch. The group, organized by activist groups, occupied the lobby of the court building demanding an end to unaffordable bails and the resignation or removal of the judges who set them.  “The group expected to get arrested, but as afternoon turned into evening and staff emptied out of the courthouse, sheriff’s deputies did not move in to take the demonstrators into custody.” Instead, when the protesters emerged around 7:30 p.m., they announced that after negotiating with county officials, they had secured a meeting with the chief judge. They plan to demand release of 2,500 people being held on bail they cannot afford in violation of a judge’s order and an end to the practice entirely. [Joe Vince / Patch]

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