SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two former Cambodian refugees facing deportation for crimes committed as young adults were among seven people granted clemency Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his first pardons since taking office in January.
Newsom pardoned Kang Hen, of San Jose, who pleaded guilty to being the getaway driver during an attempted armed robbery in 1994. Hen, who was brought to the U.S. when he was 9, surrendered to immigration authorities April 1 after he was notified he was wanted for deportation.
The governor, a Democrat, also issued a pardon for Hay Hov, of Oakland, who was convicted of solicitation to commit murder and participation in a street gang in 2001.
Hov, a naturalized citizen, was taken into custody by immigration officials in March.
Both men immigrated to the U.S. lawfully as children. They petitioned Newsom for pardons, saying they have moved past their troubled youth to become respectable men with jobs and families.
Pardons don't automatically halt deportation proceedings, but they eliminate the criminal conviction judges often base their decisions on, according to the governor's office.
In Hen's case, a pardon may eventually allow him to stay in the U.S. Hov, whose green card was recently re-instated by a judge, is no longer at risk of 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."
The pardons are a rebuke to President Donald Trump's administration, which has cracked down on immigrants who committed crimes. Since Trump took office, a large number of people have been detained and deported to Cambodia, according to advocates.
Newsom's predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, pardoned five Cambodian refugees who faced deportation last year.
Newsom on Monday also pardoned five other people who had convictions more than 15 years old — including business owners, students and at least one grandparent, the governor's office said. Their crimes ranged from forgery to drug-related offenses.
None of those pardoned had multiple felonies and all had completed their sentences, Newsom's office said.
Newsom's highest profile use of his clemency powers came in March, when he placed a moratorium on executions for the 737 people on California's death row. His action temporarily halted the death penalty in the state.