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A Hispanic man who helped clean up the debris of 9/11 now finds himself fighting deportation

Carlos Humberto Cardona came to the United Stated aged 17 in 1986. A drug peddling charge 27 years ago resulted in his arrest by ICE in February. His family is seeking clemency for Cardona who suffers respiratory problems due to his work at Ground Zero.
19 Jun 2017 – 03:58 PM EDT
Carlos Humberto Cardona

Manhattan, New York - Carlos Humberto Cardona, a Hispanic man who did cleanup work at the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attacks, is on the verge of being deported.

In February, the 48-year-old Colombian was arrested by ICE due to a 27-year-old charge for selling drugs for which he pleaded guilty in 1990. He has had a spotless record since then.

Now his daughter and his wife are asking for clemency and have started a legal fight to allow him to stay in the United States. They say Cardona suffers from pulmonary complications due to the soot and dust that he inhaled from hazardous waste during his Ground Zero work at the site of the twin towers.

Cardona was part of a cleanup team from Milro Services, a construction firm that helped clear the debris in south Manhattan and was later sued by some of its workers for not paying overtime.

“He’s very much an American,” Rajesh Barua, Cardona’s attorney, told The New York Daily News. Barua filed a lawsuit last week asking a federal judge in Brooklyn to urge the Department of Homeland Security and Citizenship and Immigration Services to expediate their respond to a 2014 request by Cardona seeking to verify his marriage to his wife Liliana, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. The case is also pending an application for clemency submitted to the State of New York in April.

"A post 9/11 cleanup Volunteer should NOT get deported. Especially if he is sick. Don't just kick out my dad and then not even help him with treatment expenses," his daughter Giselle Cardona, 19, wrote on Facebook about her father's case. She also started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for his legal fees which so far has only collected $145 out of a $4,000 goal.

"My father has always been a family man, always provided for us even after my parents divorced," she wrote on "I am his only child, and I can't imagine not having my father by my side every step of the way. My father is just as American as the next guy."

Cardona arrived in the United States aged 17 in 1986. Since 2000, he has faced a deportation order based on his drug conviction. Last February he was arrested during a regular appointment with immigration authorities. He has since been held in a New Jersey detention center.

"I certainly think the circumstances warrant a pardon," Barua said.

His wife told the The New York Daily News, that her husband is depressed. "I can’t believe that this is happening to him after all of the sacrifices he has made. He says he feels like he’s being treated like a criminal," she told the newspaper. "He says he feels he's being treated like a criminal."