Cuomo grants clemency to Ground Zero worker facing deportation

Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA Photo News

Thousands of people sprung into action to help remove hazardous material and assist in the cleanup at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Working alongside them for fourth months was Carlos Cardona, a resident of Queens and a native of Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The experience working at Ground Zero left Cardona sick and depressed and in need of medical treatment.

However, because of his undocumented status, and a decades-old arrest, Cardona has been detained and held in Hudson Correctional Facility in Kearny, N.J. since February of this year due to changes in federal immigration enforcement policy after appearing for a routine U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appointment.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted Cardona clemency this week to help ensure he will receive the treatment he needs.

“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.”

Cardona, 48, has lived in the United States for more than 30 years after fleeing Colombia in 1986 due to local violence, but on Aug. 30, 1990, then 21-year-old was convicted of a non-violent drug charge, but has since lived crime free.

Because of the months he spent at Ground Zero, Cardona suffers from acute respiratory issues, depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder. This pardon allows Cardona and his lawyer to reopen the government’s Final Order of Removal to show that the grounds for deportation are no longer applicable.

With the grounds for deportation now removed, Cardona will return to his wife who was also a former Ground Zero recovery worker and his 19-year-old daughter who is working on a teaching degree.

While clemency doesn’t guarantee Cardona won’t be deported, it will help bolster his case to remain in the United States.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo for choosing to grant a pardon in this case. His act supports Mr. Cardona’s efforts to remain in New York, alongside his wife and children, in the community which has served as his home for more than 30 years, and with access to life-saving healthcare not available in Colombia,” said Joanne Macri, chair of the Immigration Committee of the New York State Bar Association. “This pardon grants mercy to a deserving New Yorker with no other means of relief from the life-altering consequences of a criminal conviction that has followed him for 27 years.”

Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Cuomo has pardoned 115 people with authority under the New York Constitution and state law that allows commutations and pardons.

Cardona’s clemency application was filed with the state in April.