Monday, May 26, 2008

A Pardon From One Ruler To Another

New York State Governor David A. Paterson announced Saturday that he has granted Ricky Walters a full and unconditional pardon of his 1991 attempted murder and weapon convictions, in order to allow Walters to seek relief from deportation from the federal immigration courts. Mr. Walters, who was born in the United Kingdom, was lawfully admitted to the United States at age 11, and he was raised in the Bronx. He gained fame as Slick Rick, a popular rapper who has since been credited with being a pioneer in the development of hip-hop music and culture. Slick Rick was incarcerated for six years, and was released from prison in 1997.

“Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years,” said Governor Paterson. “In that time, he has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel youth against violence, and has become a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people. Given these demonstrated rehabilitative efforts, I urge federal immigration officials to once again grant Mr. Walters relief from deportation, so that he is not separated from his many family members who are United States citizens, including his two teenage children.”

Slick Rick faces deportation under a federal statute that mandates the removal of a lawful resident alien upon conviction of an aggravated felony or a weapon offense. For certain offenses removal can be avoided by a Governor’s pardon, but for weapon offenses, even after receiving a pardon, a non-citizen must seek discretionary relief from deportation from the immigration court. He was granted such relief by an immigration court in 1995, but that decision was later vacated because the Board of Immigration Appeals issued its decision 33 days after the expiration of a statutory deadline. Slick Rick has been unable to re-apply for discretionary adjustment of his immigration status because of his attempted murder convictions, but he will be eligible to do so as a result of the Governor’s pardon.

Slick Rick, now 43 years old, has lived in the Bronx without incident since his release from prison in 1997. He is presently employed as a landlord and rap musician. He has a wife and two children, all of whom are American citizens.

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