Qing Hong Wu, 29, fell into a bad crowd when he was younger, according to a story in The New York Times (NYT). The child of legal Chinese immigrants, he and two other teenagers mugged four people in 1995 and 1996. Wu pled guilty to the robberies as an adult, even though he was only 16. He didn’t realize that it would have dire immigration consequences later on.
Wu was brought in front of Judge Michael A. Corriero, who was overseeing the case. He urged Wu to turn his life around during his sentence, which was three to nine years in a reformatory. If Wu does, the judge promised to stand behind him. Wu took the words to heart and earned his release in 1999. He had obtained his GED while in jail. He went on to study hard, while helping to support his widowed mother and sisters financially. He eventually became the vice president for Internet technology at a national company.
In 2007, Wu felt secure enough to apply for citizenship. His mother had recently become a citizen four years ago. Wu disclosed his record. He later found out that he was ineligible for citizenship. In fact, he could be deported back to China, a country he left when he was 5 years old. He has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, Wu was jailed last November as a “criminal alien,” according to NYT.
There has been an outpouring of support for Wu. He has dozens of testimonials from his family members and fiance, who are all citizens, and letters from his current and former employers. Corriero is supporting a petition to Gov. David. A. Paterson for a pardon that would “erase Wu’s criminal record and stop deportation proceedings,” according to NYT.
Under laws enacted in 1996, the immigration judge on Wu’s case cannot consider any of the support for Wu. The laws were part of a “national crackdown on crime, and the perception that immigration judges had been too lenient,” according to NYT.
Now, if Wu had been a citizen who committed a crime in his youth, paid for it, and then went on to lead an exceptional life, he’d be lauded as an example of how well the criminal justice can work because his story is not typical. Many squander their second chance. But since Wu is not a citizen, he faces deportation to a country that he hasn’t seen since he was 5 years old.
Americans strongly believe in redemption and second chances — but is redemption only allowed for citizens? No. Deporting Wu from his home to China is not just or reasonable. It is excessive. His fiancé, Anna Ng, said she would follow him to China if he is deported, but worries because she doesn’t speak Mandarin, and she doesn’t want to be homeless, which is a real worry for her. Wu cannot read Chinese or speak it fluently.
So what can be done? Civil rights attorney Elizabeth OuYang wrote in the Huffington Post, “The courts have power and will be more inclined to grant [Wu] retroactive youth offender status if the district attorney acts favorably on [Wu’s] case. Immigration will then stop trying to remove [Wu] from the U.S.” OuYang wrote that she has faith that the criminal justice system will work in Wu’s case.
Show your support by contacting the Manhattan District Attorney’s office at 212-335-9000 or write to One Hogan Place, New York, NY 10013 and urge him to grant Wu retroactive youth offender status. ♦