California governor pardons two Vietnamese Americans facing deportation

By Nguyen Quy   November 18, 2019 | 06:12 pm PT
California governor pardons two Vietnamese Americans facing deportation
California's Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California, U.S., June 1, 2019. Photo by Reuters/Stephen Lam.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has pardoned three men, including two Vietnamese Americans, to help prevent their deportation by federal immigration authorities.

Quyen Mai and Dat Vu, along with Cambodian American Saman Pho, entered the U.S. as refugees many years ago, but faced federal removal orders from the country for their adult criminal convictions.

The pardons issued on Friday are the latest in a series of similar action taken by the governor as the Donald Trump administration ramps up efforts to deport those with criminal records, particularly to Southeast Asian nations.

Mai, 36, came to the U.S. when he was 11. He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison as an accessory to a crime involving a shootout.

He is now executive director of the Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation, has won several public service awards and started the first Vietnamese American youth-run radio talk show, the pardon said.

Vu was convicted in 2000 of assaulting three men in two incidents and threatening a witness. He entered the U.S. when he was nine as a refugee from Vietnam and now is married to a U.S. citizen and has two young children.

Their criminal records had put them at risk of possible deportation in a crackdown by the U.S. government. The administration is seeking to deport immigrants with criminal records who have green cards, but never became naturalized U.S. citizens, even if they'd already served their sentences.

In August, Vietnamese American man Quoc Nguyen, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for a 2004 assault with a deadly weapon and completed his sentence in 2012, was among seven people pardoned by the California governor, allowing him to avoid deportation.

Last year, three Vietnamese American men detained by U.S. immigration for deportation were pardoned by the then Californian governor Jerry Brown.

The pardons by the Democratic governors are seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump's tightened immigration policies.

As of December last year, there were 8,600 Vietnamese nationals in the United States subject to the administration's deportation policy.

The U.S. and Vietnam had reached a bilateral agreement in 2008, stating that Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995.

The White House's deportation policy was in breach of this agreement.

Nearly 1.3 million Vietnamese citizens immigrated to the U.S. at the end of the Vietnam War and obtained green cards. However, many of them are yet to become permanent U.S. citizens, due to the lack of education, language skills or legal help to complete the procedures of obtaining citizenship.

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