Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown has administered some pre-Christmas relief to roughly 150 convicted criminals in the state, suspending sentences and issuing pardons, including pardons for two Cambodian refugees who were facing deportation.
The announcement, made on Dec. 23, appears to disregard the Trump administration's hard-line immigration stance. Brown pardoned Rottanak Kong and Mony Neth, who both were brought to the U.S. as children when their families fled Cambodia's Khmer Rouge government that had killed millions of citizens, according to KTDF.
Kong and Neth had both recently been detained in federal immigration enforcement sweeps, according to KTDF. Because they had been convicted of felonies, they were due to be deported. A California judge has put a temporary halt on the deportation of Cambodian refugees, whose numbers are in the hundreds.
Kong was 25 when he was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to one year in prison for joyriding. In 1995, Neth was convicted on charges of weapons possession and receiving stolen property worth $400 or less, reports The Sacramento Bee.
In issuing the pardons, Brown stated that both men had paid their debts to society and had become law-abiding citizens.
Neth, 42, was released from a detention facility Dec. 22 after being pardoned on Dec. 6. He says he is happy to be home with his family, albeit with an ankle monitor, reports The Sacramento Bee.
"It's the best Christmas gift ever," Neth said. "I don't want to be anywhere else in the world."
Attorney Kevin Lo of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, which represented some of the men in a recent class-action lawsuit, said Neth is not out of the woods yet.
Brown's pardon only relates to Neth's felony charge, but federal immigration law does not preclude the possibility of Neth being deported on the firearms possession count.
Brown pardoned 132 people and commuted the sentences of 19 others. About 60 people who were granted pardons had been convicted of making, selling or possessing drugs, including marijuana. California has recently legalized recreational marijuana.
While it's not possible to erase a conviction with a pardon, state and federal law enforcement are informed, and pardons become part of the the public record.
Brown, who served as California's governor from 1975 to 1983 before being elected for a second time in 2011 -- and subsequent re-election in 2014 -- has issued 1,463 pardons, according to The Associated Press. By comparison, from 1991 to 2010, former California Govs. Pete Wilson, Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger issued just 15 pardons -- all by Schwarzenegger.
Sources: AP via KTSF, The Sacramento Bee / Featured Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Neon Tommy/Flickr, Omar Wood/Change.org