California Governor Pardons Refugees Slated for Deportation

August 20, 2018 Updated: August 20, 2018

Among the pardoning of 36 criminals on Aug. 17, California Gov. Jerry Brown has included three Cambodians who face deportation.

The three Cambodians had obtained legal immigration status, but convictions for serious violent crimes triggers the forfeiture of immigration status.

The pardons mean the three have effectively been absolved of their crimes.

One man, Vanna In, came to the United States as a refugee when he was 3. At age 17, he fatally shot a rival gang member, according to the pardon document. After serving just over six years, he was released by the California Youth Authority in 2001.

“After his release, Mr. In started Jobs of Hope, an organization devoted to assisting former gang members obtain jobs that helped dozens of individuals to turn away from gangs and become law-abiding, productive citizens,” the pardon states.

Phal Sok lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for 37 years after arriving as a refugee from Cambodia when he was 3, according to the pardon document.

He was convicted for armed robbery, spent 15 years in prison, and was released from a two-year parole term in August 2017.

Sok works at a nonprofit dedicated to criminal justice reform, but is in deportation proceedings.

Heng Lao served two years in prison and three years parole for assault with a deadly weapon, according to the pardon document, which goes on to say that he now owns several businesses that employ more than 30 people.

Lao’s immigration status was not included in the pardon document, but Brown’s office confirmed to media that he is a Cambodian refugee.

“Those granted pardons all completed their sentences years ago, and the majority were convicted of drug-related or other nonviolent crimes,” Brown’s office said in a statement. “Pardons are not granted unless they are earned.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has accused governors of granting pardons to aliens for political purposes.

Thomas Decker, New York field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, responded to the 18 pardons that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted last December.

“While the governor’s pardons appear to be yet another politically driven attempt to circumvent federal immigration law, whether or not they actually have any legal effect on individual immigration cases will be reviewed by ICE,” Decker said in a statement on Jan. 1.

“For aliens who remain subject to final orders of removal under federal law, ICE will execute those lawful orders.”

Cuomo announced on Twitter that he granted clemency to 61 individuals, including 18 pardons to immigrants facing deportation.

“While the federal government continues to target immigrants, we’re making a more just, fair, and compassionate New York,” Cuomo wrote in a tweet on Dec. 27, 2017.

Cuomo said the pardons may not automatically remove the grounds of removal for those facing deportation, but they are “a necessary predicate to regaining the right to remain here in the country they call home.”

Two days prior to Cuomo’s pardons, Brown had pardoned two aliens.

Both New York and California have created sanctuary policies to protect illegal aliens from immigration enforcement.

On Oct. 5 last year, Brown signed into law SB-54, which made the state of California a sanctuary effective Jan. 1, 2018. The new law says local and state law enforcement can be penalized for cooperating and communicating with immigration officials.

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