California Governor Pardons 3 Immigrant Criminals to Prevent Them From Being Deported

October 21, 2019 Updated: October 21, 2019

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom pardoned three criminals who are immigrants because he wanted to prevent them from being deported to the countries they were born in.

“The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant clemency, including in the form of a pardon,” his office said in a statement. “A clemency grant recognizes a person’s subsequent efforts in self-development.”

“A clemency grant does not forgive or minimize the harm caused by the crime. A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities, and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation, and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.”

Pardons don’t necessarily mean a criminal won’t be deported but they show the person has attempted to rehabilitate him or herself and remove one incentive to deport the felon.

The three immigrant felons were named as 42-year-old Arnou Aghamalian, an Iraqi native; 38-year-old Victor Ayala, an El Salvadorean native; and 41-year-old Thear Sam, a Cambodian native.

“They are now trusted employees, husbands, fathers to young children and sons to aging parents,’’ the governor’s office said. “Their deportation would be an unjust collateral consequence that would harm their families and communities.”

Aghamalian was convicted of helping a relative set a car on fire. The vehicle belonged to a nightclub owner who was in an argument with Aghamalian’s cousin, the governor’s office said.

Ayala was convicted of felony robbery after assaulting a security guard while shoplifting from an electronics store. He had four prior convictions for misdemeanors, including theft and hit-and-run, according to the office.

According to Spectrum News, Sam was convicted of helping a friend steal a car and served two-and-a-half years in prison. Sam told the broadcaster he hung out with people “who were helping me out” in the ongoing battles between “Mexicans and Asians.”

Sam was put on probation after stealing a backpack from a child when he was 18.

“I didn’t learn my lesson just because I got slapped on the wrist. I helped a friend steal a car from San Francisco. Drove it back down towards San Luis Obispo where I got arrested again. This time around, I ended up doing two and a half years for that,” said Sam.

Newsom also pardoned 59-year-old Curtis Reynolds, an American who was convicted of six drug felonies, including possession and possession for sale, and commuted the sentenced of two additional men, 44-year-old Esdvin Flores, who pointed a gun at a woman during a robbery in 1999; and 35-year-old Jensen Ramos, who fired a gun at a fleeing vehicle after a fight broke out at a party in 2002.

Newsom said Flores and Ramos suffered from “disproportionately long sentencing” and were young when they committed the crimes.

Newsom, one of the most progressive governors in the country, has pardoned criminals or commuted sentences a number of times since gaining office in January.

In September, Newsom commuted sentences of 21 inmates, including some convicted in killings.

And in May, Newsom pardoned seven people, including two former Cambodian refugees who were involved in an armed robbery and an attempted murder, respectively, trying to help them avoid deportation.

“Both men have young children, are the primary income provider for their families, and provide care to relatives living with chronic health conditions,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “Their deportation would be an unjust collateral consequence that would harm their families and communities.”

California, with lax policies on immigration enforcement, including making the state a so-called sanctuary for illegal immigrants, has faced rising homelessness, crime, and other issues in recent years.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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