Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a visit to Cayuga County in April. 

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday granted clemency to 61 people, including immigrants facing deportation because of past criminal convictions.

Cuomo pardoned 18 people facing immigration-related legal challenges, including 15 who were convicted of nonviolent offenses but haven't committed any crimes for at least 10 years.

The notable pardons include Lorena Borjas, 57, a transgender woman from Mexico who now runs HIV testing programs for transgender sex workers and an advocate for immigrants and transgender people. A victim of human trafficking, she was convicted of fourth-degree criminal facilitation in 1994.

Cuomo also pardoned Freddy Perez, 53, for past drug offenses. Perez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was convicted of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in 1993. He now works as an electrician and cares for his younger brother, who has autism.

Alexander Shilov, 35, was pardoned by Cuomo for prior petit larceny and attempted petit larceny convictions when he was a teenager and addicted to drugs. An immigrant from Estonia, he has remained sober for 13 years and earned his general equivalency diploma. He now works as a nurse in Brooklyn and volunteers in New York's Medical Reserve Corps.

The pardons don't guarantee that the 18 immigrants, including Borjas, Perez and Shilov, will avoid deportation. But the gubernatorial actions will boost their cases to remain in the U.S.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Cuomo's pardons come as the federal government under President Donald Trump's leadership cracks down on undocumented immigrants, especially those with criminal backgrounds.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in November that immigration-related arrests increased nearly 40 percent in one year. More than 41,000 people were arrested on immigration charges, according to the agency.

Two New Yorkers with nonimmigration-related requests received pardons: 

• Christopher Cavallo, 66, was convicted of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance in 1977. He hasn't committed another crime since and now owns a Florida-based security firm. He operates an addiction recovery program in a women's prison and provides support to a shelter for children with cancer and HIV in Colombia. The pardon would help Cavallo run for elective office in Florida and obtain an advanced security license to grow his firm, according to the governor's office. 

• Mary Snook Downing, 58, used drugs after the death of her husband and son in 1985. She was convicted of possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1987. She completed drug rehabilitation and has remained crime-free and sober since her conviction. Cuomo's office said she sought the pardon so that she could petition for legal guardianship of her 88-year-old mother, who lives in Florida and has dementia. 

Cuomo also announced that 39 New Yorkers who were convicted of misdemeanor and nonviolent crimes when they were 16 or 17 years old will be pardoned. Those receiving pardons haven't committed crimes for at least 10 years.

He has now granted clemency to 140 people through the Youth Pardon Program.

Two New Yorkers had prison sentences commuted by Cuomo Wednesday. Dominic Dupont, 39, has served more than 20 years of a 25 years-to-life sentence for second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Dupont was 19 when he killed another man while defending his twin brother. 

After leaving prison, Dupont will live with his wife in Brooklyn and work as an at-risk youth counselor. 

Michael Flournoy, 42, was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison for second-degree attempted murder and other charges, according to the governor's office. He developed a friendship with the victim and her son, who now consider him a member of their family, the governor's office said. 

Flournoy is a certified AIDS and HIV counselor and is a volunteer program coordinator of the Prisoner's AIDS Counseling and Education Program. He earned associate and bachelor's degrees from Bard College. When he exits prison, he will live with his family in Brooklyn. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.