California Governor Urged to Pardon Vietnamese Refugee Facing Deportation

Lam Hong Le

A petition with nearly 2,000 signatures is asking California Gov. Gavin Newsom to directly pardon a man facing imminent deportation to Vietnam next week.

Who’s being deported: Lam Hong Le, 52, was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Yuba County Jail before being released on deportation proceedings.

  • Lam, a Vietnamese refugee, came to the U.S. in 1981 at the age of 12. In 1992, he was convicted of a gang-related murder and sentenced to 34 years in prison, as per the Los Angeles Times.
  • In October 2019, he was granted parole after serving 32 years. Just minutes after his release, however, ICE detained him and placed him in custody for two months and eight days.
  • Lam was released on deportation proceedings. He spent the next 18 months as a full-time essential worker and actively engaged in church and community service.
  • The 52-year-old’s deportation proceedings subjected him to routine “check-ins” with ICE. His next check-in is scheduled for June 7 — and there are mounting concerns that he is bound for deportation.
  • “I feel so down, I feel that…man…I feel so sad and so hurt, so lonely that a I have never feel so hurt like that because it hit me really hard because I feel they gonna deport me and go back to Vietnam,” he said in a video.

What supporters are saying: Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonprofit Lam is involved with, led a petition calling for the expediency of a Direct Pardon from Gov. Newsom. 

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  • “He is a childhood survivor of extreme violence and trauma who transformed himself and now offers care for others who have also experienced childhood violence,” said the organization. They also described him as “kind, reflective and hard-working.”
  • People convicted of a crime in California can apply for a pardon in two ways: a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Direct Pardon. The former reportedly takes years to be considered, so Lam’s supporters sought the latter due to the urgency of his situation.
  • As a war refugee, Lam is expected to face hostile conditions if deported to Vietnam. He may be stigmatized as a traitor, struggle with employment and live without any security since he has no family to return to.
  • Newsom on Friday pardoned Kao Saelee and Bounchan Keola, two inmate firefighters who both faced deportation to Laos. The governor said they have demonstrated living “an upright life,” according to AP News.
  • A bilateral agreement between Vietnam and the U.S. stated Vietnamese citizens who arrived before July 12, 1995 are “not subject to return,” reported Reuters.

A rally for Lam is scheduled on June 3 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PDT at the Sacramento State Capital Building. The event will be co-sponsored by SEARAC, Asian Law Caucus, Immigration Coalition of Sacramento, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and Detention Watch Network, according to AsAmNews.

Featured Images via Tsuru For Solidarity (left, right)

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