Incarcerated firefighter Boun Keola released from ICE detention!


January 28, 2021

Yesterday evening, Boun Keola was finally released from ICE detention, where he was transferred after 22 years of incarceration!

In 1988, Boun came to the U.S. as a Khmu refugee from Laos where he witnessed unspeakable violence, famine, and devastation. Like so many in the Southeast Asian community, his experience with violence and poverty continued as his family struggled to start a new life here. At just 16 years old, Boun was charged as an adult after a gang-related shooting and accepted a plea deal for 28 years in prison.

Determined to make amends for the harm he caused, Boun volunteered to train and serve as a firefighter in California while incarcerated. As the state faced a devastating wildfire season last year, Boun fought to protect communities on the frontlines during the Bear, Gold, CZU Complex, Glenn Lighting, and Zogg wildfires. Despite all of this, the State turned him over to ICE for deportation in October. 

ALC fought for Boun’s release from ICE detention, but there are tens of thousands of others like him sitting in ICE detention hoping for freedom. Take action with us today and call on the Biden administration to free them all TODAY

After suffering neck and back injuries from fighting in the Zogg fire, Boun was placed in solitary confinement at Folsom State Prison, held without a pen or access to a phone to tell his family that he had been injured, until he was turned over to an ICE detention center where he received no medical care. 

Today, Boun is finally free from ICE detention. He shared this message with us: “I can’t describe how good freedom feels after 22 years. Thank you to everyone who supported me and saw that I was more than my past mistakes. I hope Gavin Newsom will see that too and decide to stop turning us over to ICE and pardon my fellow firefighter, Kao Saelee.” Kao Saelee, also a refugee from Laos and an incarcerated firefighter, was turned over to ICE as well and is currently in ICE detention in Louisiana.

As the new Administration works to undo harms caused by immigration policies of the past, President Biden must also dismantle a racist and cruel criminalization, detention and deportation machine that has separated millions of families. Despite President Biden’s call for a 100-day “pause” on deportations, ICE continues to cruelly detain and arrest incarcerated immigrants when they complete their sentences or become eligible for release. 

Join us in welcoming Boun home and calling on President Biden to stop all ICE arrests now and reunite people with their families! #100DaysforFreedom 


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