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Paterson Wants Pardon Panel for Immigrants

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New York Governor David Paterson is countering what he calls "harsh" federal immigration laws by creating a "pardon panel" that will review the cases of legal immigrants facing deportation for prior criminal convictions.

"Some of these charges are virtually minor in nature and some of these convictions go back beyond a decade for people who've demonstrated that they have lived productive lives in the interim," Governor Paterson said.

Paterson's office has said it knows of just a handful of cases that could qualify for a pardon at this point, but expect more after today's announcement. In March, the governor pardoned an executive who immigrated from China as a child and faced deportation because of a mugging conviction as a teenager.

The panel will be comprised of five executive branch workers and isn't expected to cost the state anything. If it goes forward, New York will be the first state to have a board that recommends gubernatorial pardons if a legal immigrant's previous crime was committed in New York and didn't carry the consequence of deportation at the time of conviction.

The New York Times reports immigration lawyers called Paterson's move extraordinary and said it could affect thousands of New Yorkers.