Two Cambodians convicted of crimes in the United States were pardoned on Saturday by Governor of California Jerry Brown.
It is a tradition to grant pardons during the holiday season.
The pardon recipients, Mony Neth and Kong Rattanak, live in Northern California. They immigrated to the US as children when their parents fled the Khmer Rouge regime.
Kevin Lo, an attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said Mr Rattanak was convicted of felony joyriding in 2003 at age 25 and sentenced to a year in jail. Mr Neth was convicted on a felony weapon’s charge, affiliation with a gang, and a misdemeanour for receiving stolen property.
They were scheduled to be deported on December 20, but a federal judge agreed to a request by an attorney team to delay their departure, Mr Lo said.
Governor Brown’s pardon acknowledged how much Mr Neth and Mr Rattanak had turned their lives around.
“We are happy they can spend the holidays with their loved ones,” the governor said.
“This pardon does not mean they are completely off the list, but the chances of avoiding deportation are much higher,” Mr Lo said. “Mr Neth’s pardon helped with his aggravated felony, but not with his firearm conviction, so we still have to file a motion to reopen the case and for him to stay.”
The judge’s order preventing the deportation of Cambodians has been extended to January 25, leaving more time to help Cambodian nationals get legal counsel and see if their case can be reopened.
Mr Lo said the federal judge extended the deadline because government attorneys needed more time to gather information to respond to the lawsuits, and that key officials involved in the deportation were not available over the holidays.
Many petitioners in these cases fled Cambodia as children during the 1970s, and have lived in the US for decades.
They face deportation after committing crimes in the country.
According to US Immigration Customs Enforcement, there are 1,900 Cambodian nationals residing in the US who are subject to deportation, 1,412 of whom have criminal convictions.