When he sentenced 15-year-old Qing Hong Wu to a reformatory for a series of muggings in Chinatown back in 1996, Judge Michael A. Corriero said he was “here to stand behind” Wu if he decided to turn his life around.
Now jump ahead to last year. Wu’s immigrant mother never learned enough english to take the citizenship test while he was still a minor, which would have made him a citizen too. So Wu, 29, now a corporate VP for Internet technology and engaged to be married to a citizen, applied for himself. By November, he was in federal custody as a criminal alien facing deportation. His guilty plea to adult charges meant not only a forced return to a country he hadn’t seen since he was five but a permanent ban on re-entry into the United States.
Wu wrote to Correiro then, and Corriero remembered. Along with Wu’s fiancée, his mother and sisters (all citizens), the Police Benevolent Association (a former employer) and his boss at the Centerline Capital Group, Correiro wrote to David Paterson, asking him to erase Wu’s criminal record so he would be allowed to remain in the country.
Paterson came through yesterday.
“Qing Hong Wu’s case proves that an individual can, with hard work and dedication, rise above past mistakes and turn his life around,” Governor Paterson said. “While in New York custody, Mr. Wu earned his GED and has since earned an Associate’s Degree and has pursued a successful career in information technology. Since his release, Mr. Wu has had no other involvement with the criminal justice system. This pardon will give Mr. Wu the opportunity to remain in the United States to be with his family and continue the career and life he has built here in New York.”
The pardon for Mr.Wu was advocated by New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and by a broad array of Chinese, Asian, Pan Asian and immigrant organizations throughout the country. To these immigrant groups Mr.Wu’s case is an example of rehabilitation and the opportunity to make a forceful statement about the harsh inequity and rigidity of the immigration laws. Governor Paterson agrees with their assessment and the injustice that would be continued to be visited upon Mr.Wu were he to be deported to China where he has no family and no connection. Mr.Wu has paid his debt to society.
Nina Bernstein of the Times, who owns this story, spoke to Correiro again after the news of the pardon broke.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It restores my faith in the system, and it is the beginning of the recognition that young people should be permitted to recover from their mistakes.”