In a poignant show of defiance towards the Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration, California Governor Jerry Brown announced on Saturday that he would pardon two Cambodian refugees who face deportation.
The Governor’s move could serve as grounds to “eliminate the rationale” for deporting them, according to the LA Times. Immigration enforcement is technically a federal responsibility, but Brown has made it clear to the Trump administration that California, one of the most diverse states in the country, will remain a sanctuary state.
In October, Brown signed Senate Bill 54 into law, officially making California a “sanctuary state.” While the bill does not prevent ICE from conducting their work, it mandates that state and local law enforcement agencies shall not use their personnel or funds to hold, question, or share information with immigration agents unless those in question have committed one or more crimes from a list of around 800 offenses.
The two men, Mony Neth of Modesto and Rottanak Kong of Davis, were placed on the path to deportation after Trump signed an executive order that cast a much wider net than Obama-era guidance on the removal of those with criminal records. Both men committed crimes years ago. Both argued that they have paid their debts to society and wanted to continue to their lives in California.
“Indeed, several individuals wrote in support of Mr. Kong describing him as kind and generous, and as a role model to those who face insurmountable challenges in their lives.” – Gov. Jerry Brown
A governor’s pardon might not adequately protect immigrants from deportation, but may remove the reason for expulsion by clearing the person’s record of a crime committed. Under an administration that seeks to attack our immigrants, governors across the country have the responsibility to step in when necessary.
In cases in both Virginia and Colorado, ICE was still able to detain two immigrants who had been pardoned by their respective governors. Either way, Brown’s decision to stand up for the rights of immigrants is a significant move. In today’s America, we need leaders willing to take a stand for our most vulnerable. Trump will continue to attack. More than ever, we need moral integrity to fill the vacuum.
The pardon’s of Mony Neth and Rottanak Kong are cause to celebrate. Progress is possible, and it is happening.