Capitol Alert

Two immigrants facing deportation among Gavin Newsom’s first pardons

Pardoned by Gov. Brown, refugee Mony Neth considers himself an American

After receiving a pardon by Gov. Jerry Brown, preventing deportation to Cambodia, Mony Neth discusses his future plans and his past mistakes that "still haunt me until now."
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After receiving a pardon by Gov. Jerry Brown, preventing deportation to Cambodia, Mony Neth discusses his future plans and his past mistakes that "still haunt me until now."

Two Cambodian refugees facing deportation are among the first people Gov. Gavin Newsom is pardoning, his office announced Monday.

Kang Hen and Hay Hov were both brought to the U.S. lawfully as children fleeing genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime and were later convicted of gang-related crimes when they were young men.

Both men were threatened with deportation earlier this year. The pardons could help them argue in court that they should not be sent back to Cambodia.

Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown pardoned five Cambodian refugees last year as the Trump administration ramped up its deportations of Asian immigrants, according to the governor’s office.

“The Cambodian refugee community is terrified,” said Kevin Lo, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.

Lo and others at the nonprofit, which represents both men, are anticipating there will be a flight later this summer — likely in June or July — deporting a group of people back to Cambodia. Now that they’ve been pardoned, Lo said he doesn’t believe Hen and Hov will be among that group.

“The governor’s pardon came at a good time,” he said.

Hen of San Francisco was convicted of robbery when he was 18 in 1994. He now works at a seafood company to support his 4-year-old son and his partner, who suffers from potentially fatal kidney and heart problems.

Similarly, Hov of Oakland supports his wife, elderly parents and 4-year-old son, who has severe autism and requires frequent care. Hov was convicted of solicitation to commit murder and gang involvement nearly two decades ago when he was 21.

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Hov was granted a green card, restoring his legal status.

Hen is still in custody, but his lawyers hope Newsom’s pardon will mean he is spared from deportation, Lo said.

Both their families would be harmed if Hen and Hov are deported, Newsom’s office said, explaining the governor’s reasons for pardoning the two men.

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Newsom pardoned them alongside five other people with convictions from more than 15 years ago, ranging from drug-related offenses to forgery. His office says he chose them because they have rehabilitated their lives since their convictions. All have already served their sentences.

Newsom’s highest profile use of his clemency powers came in March, when he granted reprieves to all 737 inmates on California’s death row. His action temporarily spares them from execution and halts the death penalty in the state.

In February, Newsom granted a request for new DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Kevin Cooper.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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