Photo Courtesy of Lorena Borjas Community Fund
Borjas has become an advocate for transgender and immigrant communities.
By Forum Staff
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently issued pardons to 18 individuals who are facing the threat of deportation and other immigration-related challenges as a result of previous convictions.
Among those granted clemency last Wednesday was Jackson Heights resident Lorena Borjas, who was convicted of fourth-degree criminal facilitation in 1994. According to the administration, at the time of her arrest, Borjas, 57, was “entrapped as a victim of human trafficking.”
Borjas, a transgender woman from Mexico, has since become an advocate for transgender and immigrant communities across the country, running HIV testing programs for transgender sex workers, and syringe exchange programs for trans-women taking hormone injections. The administration also noted that Borjas currently works as an educator at community health centers across the five boroughs, and has received commendations from elected officials, civic leaders, and community members, including City Public Advocate Letitia James.
With the pardon, Borjas told the State that she hopes to obtain citizenship and avoid deportation, in order to effectively continue her advocacy work in New York.
Cuomo indicated that he decided to issue immigration-related pardons due to “the federal government’s increased targeting of immigrants,” and wanted to reward deserving recipients’ “rehabilitative efforts and to remove the barriers that their criminal records present to their immigration status.”
Fifteen of the immigration-related pardons were granted to New Yorkers convicted of non-violent crimes, who have lived crime-free for 10 years or more, and whose convictions have jeopardized their legal ability to reside in the United States. According to the State, the pardons will grant a chance at American legal residency to those who are parents of young children, caregivers to elderly parents and disabled spouses, small business owners, community board members, civic leaders, and those with serious health conditions.
In each case, the governor noted, a pardon will make immigration-related relief possible, if not automatic.
“These New Yorkers have proved their rehabilitation, in some cases for decades, but have been unable to gain legal status or fully reenter society due to the stigma of conviction,” 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.”
In all, Cuomo granted clemency to 61 people last week. In addition to the 18 immigration-related pardons, the governor issued pardons to 39 individuals who committed misdemeanors and non-violent crimes when they were 16 or 17 years old and have been crime free for 10 years or more; and commutations to two men who have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to community violence reduction.