Lebanese immigrant seeks pardon for teenage crimes

CONCORD, N.H. - A New Hampshire auto shop owner facing deportation to Lebanon is seeking a pardon for crimes he committed as a teenager 14 years ago.

Alain Ata came to the U.S. at age 10, and spent several years in prison for burglary, conspiracy and receiving stolen property incidents when he was 18. Now 34, he seeking a pardon that will allow him to remain in the country.

In a letter to state officials, Ata says he made mistakes as a youth, but has matured and worked hard to find purpose in life. He owns an auto repair shop in Manchester and takes care of his elderly, disabled parents.

"This was a non-violent crime which stemmed from hanging around the wrong crowd and my own bad decisions. I have taken full responsibility for it and have paid dearly," he wrote. "I love this country and what it stands for. I want to live here close to my family and begin one of my own. This pardon is the only way to lift this burden off my shoulders and allow me to make decisions going forward without the fear of being torn away from all that I love and cherish in this world."

Prosecutors and the chief justice of the state Superior Court oppose his request. In a letter, Assistant Rockingham County Attorney William Pate said Ata and others broke into a home by force, and Ata later was convicted of threatening and drunken driving.

The Executive Council on Wednesday delayed action on whether Ata deserves a pardon hearing, though two of the five members said they support holding a hearing.

"I think we need broad immigration reform, and this is one instance that epitomizes the shortcomings of our immigration system," said Councilor Andru Volinsky.

Councillor Russell Prescott called Ata a "genuinely considerate person."

"He made a bad mistake and served time for that," he said. "I think his case is very compelling and should be heard."


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