As part of a Christmas tradition of granting pardons, California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned two immigrants convicted of felonies who were scheduled to be deported on Monday. The pardons are seen as the state of California’s latest move in its ongoing clash with the Trump Administration. [Sacramento Bee]
Mony Neth, 42, of Modesto, and Rottanak Kong, of Davis, came to the United States as children when their families fled Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. Neth and Kong had legal residency in the country, but they, at least temporarily, lost it.
In 1995, Neth was convicted of a felony weapons charge with a gang enhancement, as well as a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property with a value of $400 or less.
Kong was convicted of felony joyriding in 2003 in Stanislaus County and sentenced to a year in jail. He was 25 at the time.
Neither has engaged in criminal activity since being released from prison. However, they were taken into custody in October during immigration sweeps.
In recent months, federal authorities have detained and deported immigrants who lost their legal residency as a result of felony convictions.
Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, delaying the deportation of Neth and Kong. Following their pardons, the immigrants will need to request immigration courts to reopen their cases.
A defense attorney said Neth’s pardon only covers the felony charge against him, but federal law does not allow a pardon to remove the possibility of a person being deported on a firearms conviction.
However, Neth has also been aided by the passage of Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that resulted in some felony crimes being reclassified as misdemeanors. Earlier this month, a court reclassified Neth’s firearms conviction to a lesser charge.
Neth was released from Rio Consumnes Correctional Center on Friday. Neth said he plans on becoming a U.S. citizens, if he is able to, and he encourages other immigrants to remain optimistic.
Kong was still in custody, as of Friday.
On Saturday, Brown granted a total of 132 pardons and 19 commutations as part of the Christmas tradition.
In October, Brown bucked the Trump Administration’s immigration initiatives by signing California’s sanctuary state law, restricting state and local law enforcement’s ability to hand over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.