November 1, 2019
SACRAMENTO – A coalition of Southeast Asian refugees, formerly incarcerated community leaders, congregations, and civil rights organizations gathered today at the California State Capitol to urge Governor Newsom to stop the deportation of several community members who have served time in California’s state prison system (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – CDCR). Dozens of family members joined the coalition calling on Governor Newsom to use his pardon powers and authority over CDCR to intervene and stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting their loved ones.
Organizers are highlighting the case of Saman Pho, an Oakland resident, union member, and father who was arrested in the last round of ICE raids targeting Cambodian American communities. Saman Pho is seeking a pardon from Governor Newsom for a decades-old conviction, which would provide Saman relief from deportation. In 2019, Governor Newsom has already used his pardon powers to stop ICE from separating several Southeast Asian refugees from their families.
Maribel Bautista, wife of Saman Pho, has been leading a public campaign for Saman’s pardon and spoke at the rally: “Because the Cambodian community in Oakland has risen up to support those impacted by ICE raids, my family already has a large network of support to bring Saman home,” said Ms. Bautista. “But we need Governor Newsom to join us again, to use his clemency power to fight against ICE’s deportation machine.”
Advocates also lifted up the stories of community members like Tith Ton, Liyah Birru, and Charles Joseph, who upon being found suitable for parole from state prison, have been or will be directly transferred into ICE custody. Family members of Tith traveled from across the state to urge the Governor to stop his imminent transfer to ICE so that they can finally reunite with Tith, who has served over two decades in state prison.
Tith’s younger sister Jenna Patito flew from Los Angeles to attend the rally and shared about the impact of Tith’s imminent deportation: “Tith has already been missing in our family’s lives for 22 years since he was incarcerated as a youth,” said Ms.Patito. “Governor Newsom has the final say to grant Tith’s parole and freedom. It makes no sense that at the same time, the Governor would let ICE take Tith away for deportation. We need our family whole again with Tith home.”
With Governor Newsom’s authority overseeing CDCR, he can choose to not hand Tith over to ICE, and to stop Tith’s deportation to Cambodia, a country Tith’s family fled during the Cambodian genocide. Tith, Liyah, and Charles are three of thousands of community members who are transferred to ICE after completing their sentences in state prison because Gov Newsom still allows CDCR to assist ICE with deportations.
Organizers of today’s action included family members of those facing deportation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants, and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, Advancing Justice – ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.