Governor Newsom Uses Executive Clemency to Pardon Cambodian Refugee Facing Deportation


November 15, 2019

Milan Chang
(415) 848-7754

Governor Newsom Uses Executive Clemency to Pardon Cambodian Refugee Facing Deportation

SAN FRANCISCO – Today Governor Gavin Newsom granted pardons to four individuals including Saman Pho, a father, union member, and Cambodian American refugee facing deportation for a conviction from over two decades ago. This pardon will allow Saman to reopen his case to prevent his deportation, and marks a  step toward healing the wounds left by decades of US policy targeting Cambodian communities, including punitive criminal justice measures in California that disproportionately affect Southeast Asians.

Saman Pho was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on October 3, 2019 during a series of scheduled ICE check-in that resulted in the arrests of dozens of Cambodian refugees nationwide. Saman immigrated to the United States from Cambodia in 1982, fleeing genocide at the age of 6. In 1995, he was convicted for attempted murder after firing a weapon while under the influence of alcohol following an attack on him and his friends by a group of young men. Saman served 11 years in prison, during which time he completed his GED, received a painting certificate, and was a member of the Men’s Advisory Committee. Upon his release from state prison, Saman was immediately arrested and detained by ICE for 4 months, after which time he was released under conditional status. In the years since his release, Saman received honors through the Cypress Mandela apprenticeship program, joined the Northern California Cement Masons Apprenticeship Program, and became a member of the OPCMIA International Organization of Local 300 through his position with McGuire and Hester Construction.

Cambodian deportations have increased 279 percent since the Trump administration took office and the administration has signaled its intention to continue expanding the detention and deportation of Vietnamese, Lao, and other Southeast Asian communities. For those with past criminal convictions, executive clemency represents one of the only available avenues to prevent their deportations to countries few have ever known since fleeing as refugees.
“I’m deeply grateful to Governor Newsom for this act of clemency demonstrating his belief in my rehabilitation, and to my family and community for their unwavering support,” said Saman. “I hope that Governor Newsom continues to recognize the injustices impacting our communities and uses his power to help so many others in my situation.”

“We applaud Governor Newsom’s intervention to prevent the deportation of a father and valued community member,” said Anoop Prasad, Staff Attorney at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “ICE continues to raid Cambodian communities and tear California families apart. We urge the Governor to continue using pardons to counter these attacks on our immigrant neighbors and stop these unjust deportations.”

Saman’s pardon application was supported by Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, California State Assemblymember David Chiu, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Bas, Alameda Board Supervisor Nate Miley, California State Senator Nancy Skinner, 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.
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