NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has pardoned a 9/11 hero after he was threatened with deportation from the United States.
Carlos Cordona, a 48-year-old Colombian, spent four months removing toxic and hazardous material from the wreckage of the Twin Towers in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in September 2001 while working for a construction company.
He had been facing deportation because of a 27-year-old drug charge, which was picked up on a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in February.
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Mr Cardona was detained by authorities and is currently being held in New Jersey. The federal removal order dates back to 2000 and the 1990 drugs charge is the only offence on his record.
With that charge now expunged, he has a much stronger case to stay in the United States.
"The Governor's pardon removed the grounds for deportation, allowing Mr. Cardona and his attorney to reopen his case and show there is no longer reason for deportation," said a spokesman for Governor Cuomo.
Cardona had previously avoided deportation in 2011 because of health complaints dating to his time as a recovery worker that required regular check-ups with his doctor in New York. He suffers from PTSD, anxiety, depression and acute respiratory problems.
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President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this year that invalidated the condition that had allowed Mr Cardona to stay with his family in New York City.
He was one of an estimated 40,000 people with criminal records who are facing deportation under the new order. Mr Cardona has an American wife and a 19-year-old daughter, and had been living in Queens when he was picked up by ICE officials.
His lawyer, Rajesh Barua, has filed a motion in Brooklyn that asks for Mr Cardona's 2014 marriage verification to be approved, which is necessary to establish residency. The clemency shown by Governor Cuomo will also aid Cardona's case.
"In the more than 30 years since Carlos Cardona has lived in this country, he has built a family and given back to his community, including in the aftermath of 9/11 when he assisted with Ground Zero recovery efforts at the expense of his own health," Governor Cuomo wrote in a statement.
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