by Restore Fairness, Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 03:51:11 PM EST
From the Restore Fairness blog.
There’s nothing better than a real-life inspirational story. Last week we brought you the amazing story of New York’s favorite District Attorney, 90 year old Robert Morganthau, and his commitment to equal justice for all. Today, we are happy to bring you another story confirming that New York stalwarts of justice are on a roll.
A New York Times article tells the story of Ex-Judge Michael A. Corriero and his commitment to supporting Qing Hong Wu, a man who he sentenced as a juvenile 15 years ago, for misdemeanors on the “mean streets” of New York. Motivated by Wu’s reputation as a stellar student, and intent on creating a juvenile criminal system that promised a chance for reform, Corriero promised Wu that if he got educated, worked hard, and reformed his life, he would stand behind him if ever he needed it. Today Wu desperately needs Corriero’s help and Corriero, long-retired, is doing everything he can to ensure justice.
Qing Hong Wu moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 5 years old. With his parents working long hours to make ends meet, he got mixed-up in some bad company at the age of 15. At his trial, the teenager pleaded guilty, saying, “I’m sorry and I really hope that you will forgive me for all the pain and trouble I made them go through.” Court transcripts show that Judge Corriero called the case a tragedy and gave Wu the following advice,
This is not the end, this is really the beginning of a new period for you. I want you to educate yourself. Continue to read, follow the rules. You will want to get a job and become a meaningful, constructive member of society to help your family. I will be there to make sure that you can.
A model inmate, Wu took Judge Corriero’s advice very seriously. He was released from his nine year reformatory sentence in three years and worked towards turning his life around; he studied hard and supported his mother by working his way up to the position of Vice-President of IT at a management company, and is now engaged to be married. Inspired by the example of his mother, sister and fiance becoming U.S. citizens, he applied for citizenship last November, 15 years after having served his time. Immediately, Wu became subject to 1996 laws that make no allowance for those who have rehabilitated their lives and earned a place in society. He was locked up by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in a detention center in New Jersey and is facing deportation to China, a country that he has not lived in for 25 years.
At the time that Mr. Wu pleaded guilty, he was not made aware of the consequences to his immigration future that could be a direct result of his sentence. Currently, the only way that Mr. Wu’s deportation can be stayed is if he is granted a pardon that erases his criminal record. While in detention, Wu wrote a letter to Judge Corriero, reminding him about the promises that they had made to each other 15 years ago. Amongst the many appeals for his release from employers, friends and family is the strong appeal that Judge Corriero, now 67 and retired, has made to Governor David Paterson, saying that Mr. Wu has earned his second chance and should be allowed to remain in the country.
Judge Corriero is of the strong opinion that while on the one hand the justice system aims to rehabilitate those accused of crimes, especially juveniles, so as to prevent against the trap of them repeatedly re-entering the criminal system, a parallel law enforcement system is working directly against this by ignoring the details of individual cases and blindly enforcing old laws. In his book, “Judging Children as Children: A Proposal for a Juvenile Justice System”, Judge Corriero envisages a more flexible justice system that supports and nurtures those who have committed mistakes and learnt from them, allowing them to change their lives rather than perpetuating a vicious cycle.
Now the Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York City, the judge is going to great lengths to do something for Mr. Wu. We always believe that human rights begins with an individual. Judge Corriero has made a personal effort, and we really hope that this, combined with all the support that Mr. Wu has received, will make a difference.
In the mean time, if you want to be an inspiration, join SAALT’s new video project, “Say it Loud: Share Your Story for Immigration Reform”, As Congress and the Administration debate immigration reform this Spring, SAALT is collecting video testimonials from individuals who have a personal story to tell about how they might have been affected by the broken immigration system and what immigration reform would mean to them. These stories of personal experience will serve as powerful and inspiring tools in the mobilization towards immigration reform, so if you have something to say, then create a video with your personal take on this question, “Why do you believe the U.S. immigration system needs to change”. Send it to SAALT and join the likes of Morgenthau and Judge Corriero by taking a step for human rights!
Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org