Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Members of Congress Call for Pardons for Legal Permanent Residents at Risk of Deportation

Jan 12, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DCDemocratic lawmakers today wrote to President Obama asking that, in his final days in office, he grant a pardon to Legal Permanent Residents who are at risk of deportation due to minor criminal offenses.

The letter, authored by New York Reps. José E. Serrano and Nydia M. Velázquez, notes that 100,000 to 200,000 families include green card holders who, while in the country legally, are in jeopardy of removal due to minor infractions, many of which occurred some time ago.  Many immigrants have expressed fear that the incoming Administration will target individuals in this category for deportation.

“There’s palpable fear in immigrant communities, particularly among some legal residents who are at risk of deportation due to small legal infractions, many of which happened a long time ago,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY).  “We can’t allow families in these circumstances to be torn apart, and President Obama could – with the stroke of a pen – provide these individuals with a degree of assurance.”

“We’re asking President Obama to address the fears that many immigrant families have of a Trump Administration, where thousands of green card holders with minor criminal records will likely be at risk of deportation. A 20 year old conviction for turnstile jumping should not lead to deportation. Without action, these individuals could be forced to go back to a country they do not know and they may be separated from their spouses and children- leading to unnecessary emotional and economic harm.  President Obama has previously used his executive authority to deprioritize the deportation of these individuals- we’re asking that he use his pardon powers to ensure their safety and security beyond January 20th,” said Congressman Serrano.

The letter is also signed by: Reps. Ted W. Lieu (D-CA); Gene Green (D-TX); Adriano Espaillat (D-NY); John Lewis (D-GA); Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Grace Meng (D-NY); Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); James P. McGovern (D-MA); Mark Takano (D-CA); Judy Chu (D-CA); Marc Veasey (D-TX); Albio Sires (D-NJ); Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) ; Keith Ellison (D-MN); Juan Vargas (D-CA); Darren Soto (D-FL); Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL); Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA); Tony Cárdenas (D-CA); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY); Alma S. Adams (D-NC); Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).


The text of the letter is below. 

January 12, 2017

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write with great urgency to ask that you pardon all Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who are legally deportable based solely on minor criminal offenses. LPRs, or green card holders, already possess legal status.  These immigrants are productive members of our community and many of them have resided in the U.S. for significant periods of time.  To deport these individuals due to relatively minor infractions is not only disproportionate, but also morally unacceptable. Furnishing a pardon against the civil deportation charges that can be generated by these minor convictions will effectively provide many American families with long-lasting protection against deportation and help ease fears in immigrant communities as we transition into the new Administration. Furthermore, your pardon power could also be used to rectify current limitations that prevent certain immigrants from legalizing their status.

The Supreme Court has previously recognized under current law deportation is largely a predestined fate for a wide range of noncitizen offenders. In addition to more serious offenses, low-level convictions can result in deportation. This remains the case for scenarios in which offenses may have occurred decades ago, or alternatively, when the underlying criminal sentences involved minimal or no jail time. In short, individuals in possession of legal status are subject to an additional penalty for any criminal offenses. Aside from any sentence received from a criminal court, these people are subject to deportation based on these minor infractions. In most cases, these individuals have already served a sentence, paid a fine or otherwise repaid their debt to society.

A longtime LPR with a conviction for a minor offense, for example, can face deportation to a country they may have left as a child, no longer recognize and where they have no family or support network.  These negative consequences are even more devastating when families are involved. Needless deportations can tear families apart or require a U.S. citizen spouse to accompany their deported spouse to another country. The sons and daughters of these immigrants, in cases where they have no family to care for them in the case of deportation may likely find themselves facing unnecessary foster care placement. In cases where there are no additional options, both the immigrant, U.S. spouse and their children would likely have no additional option other than to move abroad. The disproportionate burden this places on legal permanent residents and their families is not only unfair—it is completely unjustified.

A presidential pardon for those with low-level offenses would ameliorate this situation and protect many Legal Permanent Residents from devastating, life changing consequences. Your Administration has already exhibited great leadership de-prioritizing removal of some people with minor convictions.

Although we believe that the deportation of many people who fall within the current enforcement priorities is disproportionate to their offenses, at minimum, we urge you to make permanent your Administration’s established priorities by pardoning all LPRs who fall outside of those enforcement priorities. Doing so would protect between 100,000 and 200,000 families.

The Supreme Court has been clear that such broad categorical reprieves are consistent with the presidential pardon power, do not require legislative approval, and further, that the pardon power does not only apply to criminal penalties.

A robust presidential pardon would ensure just treatment for permanent residents and keep families together who might otherwise be separated via deportation. We ask that you move swiftly to take this timely step.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.