(Via LA Times)
The two Cambodian refugees living in Northern California had been convicted of crimes years ago and, under the Trump administration’s more aggressive immigration enforcement policies, those offenses had placed them on a path toward deportation.
But on Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the pardons of both men — Mony Neth of Modesto and Rottanak Kong of Davis — saying they had paid their debts to society and now lived honest and upright lives.
Immigration is a federal, not state, responsibility, but attorneys for the men hope the pardons will eliminate the rationale for deporting them. Across the country, immigration attorneys are doing the same: seeking gubernatorial pardons in last-ditch attempts to forestall deportations or allow the deported to return to the U.S.
Targeting convicted criminals for deportation isn’t a new idea; it was a priority under President Obama, who deported more people than any of his predecessors. But during the Obama administration, only those with serious crimes on their records were targeted for removal. President Trump has cast a much wider net.
Shortly after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of people in the U.S. illegally who have criminal convictions. In addition to speeding up the deportation of convicts, Trump’s orders also called for quick removal of people in the country illegally who are charged with crimes and waiting for adjudication.
And federal officials began to act swiftly.
In June, immigration authorities in Michigan rounded up more than 100 Iraqi nationals with criminal backgrounds. A month later, about 40 of them asked Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for pardons.
Among those seeking a reprieve was Usama Hamama, 54, who co-owns a market in the Detroit area. Hamama, who came to the United States as a refugee when he was 11, was convicted of felony assault and carrying a gun in a vehicle in 1988. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Since 1992, he has faced the threat of deportation, but that hadn’t been a real possibility until the Trump administration.
Hamama’s attorney, Bill Swor, who works closely with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, described his client’s crime as a low-level road rage incident. Since then, he said, Hamama has raised a family and opened his small business.
“A pardon would wipe clean this offense and his record,” Swor said of Hamama, who is being held in a federal immigration detention facility in Michigan. “He was in the country legally when the offense occurred, so a pardon takes us back to that status.”
Last month, Hamama’s 12-year-old daughter, Lindsey, wrote a letter to a federal judge overseeing her father’s case. She also sent a copy to the governor.
“All I want for Christmas,” she wrote, “is my dad home and nothing else.”
The governor’s office has not made a decision on a pardon.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, received a similar plea — this one from an Army veteran with a felony drug conviction. Miguel Perez Jr., 39, joined the military in 2001 as a legal permanent resident and served two tours in Afghanistan.
In 2008, he was convicted of distributing less than 100 grams of cocaine. Perez, a native of Mexico, served half of his 15-year prison sentence but had his residency revoked as a result of the conviction and is being held in a detention center in Wisconsin.
Rauner hasn’t decided whether he’ll grant the pardon.
Gubernatorial pardons don’t guarantee an immigrant facing deportation could remain in the U.S., but they might have an effect, said Jason Cade, an associate professor of law at the University of Georgia, who characterized it as a case-by-case issue.
For example, Cade said, if an immigrant has a drug conviction that makes them subject to deportation and that conviction is pardoned, then deportation should no longer be an option.
“The bottom line is that full and unconditional pardons should absolutely be effective as a defense against deportation in cases where the conviction triggers certain removal categories — specifically those targeting aggravated felonies … or multiple criminal convictions,” said Cade, who has written extensively on immigration law.
Though the federal government may still have grounds to deport someone, Cade said, a pardon might lead authorities “to exercise favorable discretion.”
But that hasn’t always happened.
This year, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, pardoned Liliana Cruz Mendez, a mother of two who lived in the suburbs outside Washington. Cruz Mendez, who was in the country illegally from El Salvador, was stopped for a minor traffic infraction in 2014; her car had a blown-out headlight.
George Escobar, senior director at CASA — an immigrant rights group in the Washington area — called McAuliffe’s pardon “a show of solidarity for her cause and the belief she should not have to leave this country.”
“We had hoped that it would sway” Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Escobar, who had worked to secure her pardon. “Unfortunately that was not the case.”
Federal immigration officials deported Cruz Mendez this summer.
But for others, especially people with green cards or other legal status, pardons have helped. Another common thread: living in a state with a Democratic governor who perhaps is looking to push back against the Trump administration.
In May, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, who in 2008 was mistakenly released early from prison, where he was serving time for a robbery conviction. Lima-Marin, who had fled Cuba in the 1980s, got married, had a son and started working. Six years later, in 2014, Colorado officials realized the mistake and took him back into custody.
This year, days after a judge released Lima-Marin, Hickenlooper pardoned him. Even so, Lima-Marin sits in an immigration detention center, though his attorneys are hopeful he will be released.
“In terms of rehabilitation, he demonstrated an ability to contribute to the fabric of his community and Colorado,” Hickenlooper said during a news conference around the time of the pardon. “He rebuilt his life. He’s become a law-abiding, productive member of his community.”
But in a different case this fall, Hickenlooper denied a pardon request from Ingrid Encalada Latorre, who has found sanctuary in churches throughout Colorado for much of the last year. Latorre, a native of Peru, has been living in the United States illegally for 15 years.
“We carefully look at each case and take a holistic approach when considering an application,” Hickenlooper said in an email. “Clemency is not the solution to our country’s broken immigration system.”
In California, Brown, a Democrat, has issued pardons that touched the lives of those facing deportation as well as those already removed from the country.
In 2015, Brown pardoned Eddy Zheng, an immigrant fighting deportation after spending more than two decades in prison for a robbery conviction. Zheng and his family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s from China. He remains in the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen in this year.
The pardons announced Saturday were granted to Neth, who was convicted on a felony weapons charge in 1995, and Kong, who was convicted on felony joyriding in 2003. In his pardon message, among several dozen issued, Brown said that since Neth and Kong left prison, both had gone on to become “law-abiding citizens.”
Of Kong, he added, “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.”
Last spring, Brown pardoned two former Marines, Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal and Marco Antonio Chavez, as well as former soldier Hector Barajas Varela. All three had received honorable discharges from the military but later were convicted of crimes and eventually deported.
An immigration judge reinstated Chavez’s green card in November after Brown’s pardon. On Thursday, after 15 years in Mexico, Chavez returned to the U.S.
Moments after walking across the border near San Diego, he told reporters that he could hardly believe that this year his Christmas morning would begin with a hug from his relatives.
Neo-Con & Israeli Puppet Dan Crenshaw Lies About America First Patriots, Just Like He Did About Trump
Dan Crenshaw continued an onslaught of attacks against Nick Fuentes, Michelle Malkin, and America First patriots by labeling them “vehement racists, antisemites, & ethnic nationalists”. This is a far cry from the truth. He also went on again to call America First patriots as ‘antisemitic’ in a response to Michelle Malkin blocking him. Dan Crenshaw also supported Red Flag laws, something that also got him a lot of flack. He also criticized Donald Trump in 2016 on top of coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, all of which that has been questioned and exposed of Mr. McCain, oops, we mean Crenshaw.
It is very apparent Mr. Crenshaw has nothing but an ‘Israel First’ policy, constantly making linear conclusions between conservatism and support for Israel. Making his own opinion that if you don’t support Israel, you don’t support America. A very sick and warped view of America Politics in general, some would say traitorous. Dan Crenshaw represents the worse the establishment can offer so far, he must be unseated, exposed, and further more shammed from the conservative movement, along with all the other conservative grifters and Conservative Inc. types.
Matt is correct. They use slogans like “America first” to get conservatives to sympathize with them. But after personally dealing with them, it’s pretty obvious they are vehement racists, anti-semites & ethnic-nationalists.
Conservatives need to know the difference. https://t.co/9PHwWumnU0
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 19, 2019
I guess it’s offensive to point out that conservatives are 100% different than these misguided alt-right anti-semites?
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 19, 2019
Dan on Red Flag Gun Laws:
It’s clear that there has been some confusion about what conservatives would support when it comes to laws that try to better protect our communities. Let’s address this directly. Watch. pic.twitter.com/TRYjPIclEm
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 10, 2019
Dan’s Facebook Post from 2016 denouncing Trump’s “hateful rhetoric”:
Conservative Inc. Coordinates Attack on Nick Fuentes and Michelle Malkin for being America First Patriots
Since the ‘Groyper War’ Phase 1 was a decisive victory following the November 14th ‘Change my Mind’ rip-off Charlie Kirk attempted to pull off, this late weekend we’ve seen a new onslaught of attacks from many mainstream Republican pundits, attacking Nick Fuentes and Michelle Malkin for their American First allegiance. Conservative Inc. is scared of the true conservatives exposing them and their big donor’s motives & hypocrisy. Even YAF (Young Americans Foundation) who even recently hosted Michelle Malkin, disavowed “holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists”. A slew of other clips and comments were made by Guy Benson, Michael Knowles, Stephen Miller, Bradon Tatum,Jordan Schachtel, & Matt Walsh.
Twitter threads about Fuentes and Malkin
There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.
Our full statement below: pic.twitter.com/b5EB7P53v3
— YAF (@yaf) November 17, 2019
The Cancel culture is alive & well—Michelle Malkin is their latest victim. If conservatism dies it’s not because of Trump, the alt-right or a faux Russia collusion. It’s because it’s filled with cowards who enable the delegitimization efforts of the Left https://t.co/1GfpDugUsV
— Denise McAllister (@McAllisterDen) November 18, 2019
Michelle Malkin identified a Holocaust denier & open anti-Semite, whose history she was well aware of, & repeatedly proclaimed to crowds that she would not disavow him. She then falsely ID'd him as a leader of a mainstream movement. Her conduct is insanely harmful & inexcusable.
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) November 17, 2019
‘Groyper’ leader on segregation:
“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff. Who cares? ‘Oh, I had to drink out of a different water fountain.’ Big f—ing deal…oh no, they had to go to a different school…And even if it was bad, who cares?…it was better for them, it’s better for us.” pic.twitter.com/ZJ7LqpTHgL
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 18, 2019
Wait a second…
Are you telling me the guy who publicly supports Jim Crow, marched with Richard Spencer, says the Holocaust didn't happen, called for executions at CNN, and refers to people as "shabbos goy race traitors" might have a problem with certain racial minorities? https://t.co/BrOxub1r0y
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) November 18, 2019
Problems like that fucking green screen nerd Fuentes usually solve themselves. If Malkin wants to choose to be flushed with that turd, so be it.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) November 18, 2019
No, I went back and watched your shows. You come across as a racist. If this video is edited, post the unedited version were you don't sound like a white supremacis.
Don't complain about @charliekirk11 when you send your people after him.
— Brandon Tatum (@TheOfficerTatum) November 18, 2019
Hi @michellemalkin. Fuentes called me a "race traitor" and "f*ggot" because I "work for Jews." He also said that black people who complained about segregation needed to "grow up." How do you feel about these statements? And in what way are they "America First"? https://t.co/fz8qcXrRCl
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) November 18, 2019
Tweets Supporting Fuentes and Malkin
The Keepers of the Gate have spoken. #AmericaFirst is not "mainstream." My defense of unjustly prosecuted Proud Boys, patriotic young nationalists/groypers & demographic truth-tellers must not be tolerated. SPLC is cheering. https://t.co/yYyqocx1T5
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) November 17, 2019
When Ben Shapiro wrote his column advocating ethnic cleansing of Arabs, he was about the same age as Nick Fuentes is now.
Yet Shapiro, who expects a pass for his quasi-genocidal columns, offers no decency to those who have said the same type of fucked of shit he was saying.
— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) November 17, 2019
— The Hill (@thehill) November 17, 2019
Do you hear that? It's the sound of Kirk screaming. pic.twitter.com/vcT3ISeS6a
— Mister AntiBully (@MisterAntiBully) November 18, 2019
No Nation Is An Idea
The concept that “America is a timeless placeholder of ideas” is a common talking point that has been in circulation from both Conservative Inc., and the broader American Left for many years now. This saying is typically used as a divergence from addressing important policies as they pertain to mass immigration. Often, it is also used to stifle the growth of an American National Populist movement. Clearly, the unelected elites calling shots around the Western world seek to undermine valid and critical debate of the role of National Populism. Rather than emphasizing the importance of health, stable families, community, housing, and wages, our leaders have an obsession with growing GDP, doing the bidding of predatory crony capitalists who are constantly pushing to import cheap labor, and retaining power for generations to come.
The fact of the matter is, Americans (and humans in general) seek more than cheap, 4k television sets, quirky tupper-ware for last night’s leftovers, and salad shooters that break after a few uses. We are innately spiritual beings who long for community, order, and social cohesion. The United States of America is not an idea… actually, no nation is an idea. As further disorder ensues among the population, the elites have made sure to use their corporate-funded foot soldiers as a means to promote a very new, Neo-Liberal agenda. This agenda is the concept that the beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes of our Nation would mean absolutely nothing without this arbitrary term of “ideas.” The blood, sweat, and tears American workers shed producing automobiles in Michigan, the early mornings for the farmers of Iowa, and the dedicated fishermen of California, all mean nothing if this is but a plot of land where the British came to talk about the importance of small government.
Although we can appreciate the writings of philosophers like John Stuart Mill, John Locke, and Adam Smith, the “marketplace of ideas” means absolutely nothing to people who see the world completely different than you. It is apparent that the philosophy of our ancestors and founding fathers have changed the world. In an American context, the very concepts of things like liberty, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms should be held in the highest regard. Among Conservatives and the American Right, these values are not even up for debate. Unfortunately, much of Conservative Inc. (who are just liberals who want to keep more of their money) do not recognize (or are blatantly ignorant to) the sacrifices made by the ones who came before them.
To put this into perspective, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk previously stated, “I have loyalty to ideas.” Kirk says, “Of course I love the Grand Canyon. I love the Rocky Mountains. And I love Boston. And I love Chicago. But if all that disappeared, if all I had was ideas, and we were on an island, that’s America. That’s Israel. And that’s what people have to realize, America’s just a placeholder for timeless ideas. And if you fall too in love with, oh, the specific place, and all this…that’s not what it is.” What Kirk fails to recognize is that the physical reality of a Nation is what manifests those very ideas he holds so dear.
Nations are unique, with celebrations and folktales that those who inhabit the land feel relation to. Nations are made up of a people. Nations are traditions. Nations are land, resources, and landmarks. Nations are history – the good, the bad, and the ugly. No Nation is an idea.