After Six Long Years, Colombian Immigrant Receives New York State Gubernatorial Pardon

Relief from Governor Mitigates Immigration Consequences and Allows Client to Apply to Become a U.S. Citizen


New York, New York — Kerry Bretz, Partner, Bretz & Coven, LLP, has announced that his client, Jorge Gonzalez, has been granted a pardon for a prior misdemeanor conviction. Mr. Bretz said Mr. Gonzalez will now be able to file for naturalization, six years after requesting that his client be pardoned.


Mr. Gonzalez, a native of Colombia, been a lawful permanent resident since 1990. Since living in the United States, he owned and operated various businesses. “He is a great person, a family man, and does charitable work in the community,” Mr. Bretz said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”


In May 2003, Mr. Gonzalez filed an application to become a U.S. citizen with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). He believed that he could satisfy all the requirements: he was older than 17; he was a lawful permanent resident and maintained a continuous physical presence in the country for five years; he was knowledgeable in American civics and history; and he was proficient in English. In addition, he practiced good moral character for the past five years.


In a letter dated March 14, 2005, the USCIS denied Mr. Gonzalez’ application because he was charged with a Class A misdemeanor back in 1992; he pled guilty and was sentenced to three years’ probation. Although the conviction occurred more than 10 years ago, his application was denied on the ground that the conviction barred him from meeting the burden of establishing good moral character. However, the agency cited the wrong section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) in denying the application; it applied Section INA 101 (A)(43)(f), which says one who is “convicted of Scheming to Defraud in excess of $10,000, which qualifies as an aggravated felony …” can have their application denied.


However, Mr. Bretz pointed out to the USCIS that the section refers to the crime as an act of violence, which Mr. Gonzalez did not commit, and said that the agency should have cited Section INA 101 (A)(43)(m), which refers to fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victim(s) exceeds $10,000. Mr. Bretz requested a USCIS hearing on the decision, but, on March 15, 2006, the request was denied without the agency addressing the citation error. On July 31, 2008, Mr. Gonzalez sent a waiver of inadmissibility to the USCIS. The agency granted the waiver the following year.


On April 29, 2013, Mr. Bretz sent a letter to the Executive Clemency Bureau of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision requesting a Pardon to Relieve and Immigration Consequences for Mr. Gonzalez. As part of his request to have his client pardoned, Mr. Bretz was asked to update Mr. Gonzalez’ tax filings and equity holdings through the pending process. On October 21, 2019 — after undergoing an intense investigation and vetting process — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted the pardon to Mr. Gonzalez. This means Mr. Gonzalez will be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.


Mr. Bretz thanked Governor Cuomo for granting Mr. Gonzalez’ request and for his longstanding support of immigrants in the state. This year, the governor eliminated cash bail and loosened drug possession laws for foreign-born individuals and allocated $10 million for the Liberty Defense Project, which provides immigrants with high-level legal services, regardless of status. Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has issued more than 65 pardons in order to prevent deportation.


“Governor Cuomo is a true friend of immigrants,” Mr. Bretz said. “He has helped those who have nowhere to turn for assistance in having minor criminal records expunged, thereby significantly limiting the negative immigration consequences for non-citizens.”


“This is how crazy our immigration laws are,” Mr. Bretz added. “My client pleaded to a misdemeanor, but, under immigration law, it is considered an aggravated felony, which barred him from naturalizing. Mr. Gonzalez needed this pardon because this conviction was used by USCIS to deny his application. Otherwise, he is well-qualified in all respects to become a U.S. citizen.”


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