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Oakland Residents, Faith Leaders, Elected Officials Rally to Stop Community Leader Phoeun You’s Deportation

July 28, 2022 News

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Oakland Residents, Faith Leaders, Elected Officials Rally to Stop Community Leader Phoeun You's Deportation

Rally follows Oakland City Council's unanimous resolution on Tuesday urging Governor Newsom to pardon Phoeun and reunite him with his family, community

300+ faith leaders send letter to Gov. calling for the VISION Act (AB 937)

OAKLAND – Two days after Oakland City Council unanimously voted on a resolution urging Governor Newsom to pardon community leader Phoeun You and stop his deportation to Cambodia, Bay Area residents, faith leaders, and elected officials rallied on the steps of the State Building on Thursday urging the governor to immediately pardon Phoeun and to support the VISION Act (AB 937) so that no other family endures what Phoeun’s has gone through.

ICE has told Phoeun that he could be deported any day now, despite the California Board of Parole Hearings recommending his release and reunification with his family and community. A pardon would mean Phoeun can come home to his family and community and start work with two local organizations that provide re-entry and restorative justice services to thousands of people. In the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Phoeun wrote: “My last hope to stop my deportation is a pardon from Gov. Newsom…Give people like me the chance to live up to our potential and contribute to the greater good.”

“While the VISION Act awaits a vote this August, a pardon is one of the only ways to prevent the deportation of our neighbors and loved ones,” said Oakland Councilmember Nikki Bas. “Phoeun You has helped countless people in their own journeys of transformation and healing, and our community will be even stronger if he can come home. Our resolution honors Oakland’s commitment to healing and second chances.”

More than 100 people, including State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner, Oakland City Councilmembers, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, have sent letters to Governor Newsom supporting his pardon. In the past week, hundreds of people across California and other states have sent emails and made phone calls to the governor’s office.

“As Phoeun has powerfully stated, his last hope is a pardon from our Governor. In fact, just last week, extreme right-wing Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court drastically limited the Biden administration’s ability to use discretion - and basic humanity - in deportation cases,” said So Young Lee, who represents Phoeun and is an immigrant rights attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “California must take action to protect our residents and ensure justice for immigrant communities. That means granting clemency to community members like Phoeun and ensuring that we don’t turn people over to ICE for deportation by passing the VISION Act.”

Heiwa Taiko and Bambu performed at the rally today, while many of Phoeun’s family members shared what it would mean to be reunited with their uncle, brother, and son. Sy Vucic, Phoeun’s niece, told Prism earlier this week: “It’s a domino effect through the whole family…every day we’re always seeing [my grandmother] deteriorate, and the reason she holds on the way she does is she’s hoping to see her son one day.”

Faith leaders also delivered a letter today to Governor Newsom signed by more than 300 faith leaders representing every region of California. Across denominations, the group is urging the governor to champion the VISION Act (AB 937-Carrillo), a landmark racial and immigrant justice bill that would end the deportations of community members like Phoeun.

After passing the Assembly and two Senate Committees, the VISION Act is eligible for a vote by the full Senate when the legislature resumes in August.

Phoeun You & His Family and Community

Phoeun You’s family
survived the Cambodian genocide by fleeing to a refugee camp in Thailand. Upon arriving in the U.S. as a child, Phoeun faced discrimination as an immigrant. His family endured poverty and violence living in underserved neighborhoods, and Phoeun joined gangs for protection and belonging. At 20, Phoeun’s only method of protection and survival was violence. In response to an attack on him and his family, Phoeun opened fire with a gun that resulted in his incarceration. After serving 25 years, in August 2021, the California Board of Parole Hearings recommended Phoeun be released from state prison in recognition of his rehabilitation and service. On his release date, California’s prison system contacted ICE to detain at Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility and deport him.

Phoeun's family, friends, advocates, and many formerly incarcerated community members have been organizing to protect him from deportation -- emphasizing how much he has transformed and his leadership as a founding member of ROOTS (Restoring Our Original True Selves), a certified counselor by Bay Area Women Against Rape, and a mentor to many other Southeast Asian refugees who were incarcerated at a young age.


AB 937 (Carrillo), the VISION Act, would ensure that once a person has earned their release from state prison or local jail, they are not transferred to abusive and possibly deadly ICE detention, and instead are able to return to their loved ones and rebuild their lives. This includes a person who has completed their sentence, been granted parole, had charges dropped, or been granted release by a judge.

A decision last week by far-right Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, limiting the Biden administration’s discretion in deportation cases, underscores the urgency for California to grant clemency to Phoeun and to stop turning people who have served their time over to ICE.

At least eight counties in California have already ended the unjust practice of transferring immigrant community members to ICE, as have Illinois, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.