Two Cambodian refugees facing deportation back to the Kingdom after being convicted of crimes in the United States have been pardoned after petitions from the Cambodian-American community.
Kevin Lo, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, yesterday said that Kang Heng and Hay Hov were granted clemency on Monday by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Mr Heng and Mr Hov are among about 50 Cambodian refugees being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Governor Newsom’s pardons gives us hope and we are thankful, but we will continue to urge him to do more to protect Cambodian refugees from deportation,” Mr Lo said.
The two men were detained since March awaiting deportation. Mr Heng was convicted of a 1994 robbery and Mr Hov was convicted of solicitation to commit murder in 2001, he noted.
“It has been a huge effort from the Cambodian-American community to push for these pardons, and we believe around 50 Cambodians remain in ICE detention around the country,” Mr Lo said “We expect a deportation flight in June or July.”
The pardons are a rebuke to President Donald Trump’s administration, which has cracked down on immigrants who committed crimes. Since Mr Trump took office, a large number of Cambodians have been detained and deported, according to advocates.
“It feels like a dream,” Mr Hov, who was released from ICE detention last week, posted on a US lawyers group website on Monday. “I’m here to fight for others who haven’t been released yet.”
The US lawyers group Asian Law Caucus on Monday applauded Governor Newsom for granting pardons to the two Cambodian refugees.
Mr Heng and Mr Hov came to the United States as refugees with their families when they were children, fleeing the war in Cambodia. Growing up in impoverished and hyper-criminalized neighbourhoods, they made mistakes as youths and were swept into the criminal system during California’s prison boom.
“We are deeply grateful to Governor Newsom for recognizing the plight of refugees who are being targeted by the Trump administration and for acting with compassion and leadership to stop their deportations,” Aarti Kohli, the group’s executive director, said.
The grant of a pardon wipes out both men’s criminal convictions and allows them to remain in the United States with their families and communities.
Between 1975 and 2000, the US accepted 145,000 Cambodian refugees as part of an influx of Cambodians displaced by war.
The US has since begun deporting many of them convicted of crimes under a deal signed between both governments.