Andrew R. Arthur, Center for Immigration Studies, November 16, 2020
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) last week issued 22 pardons, 13 commutations of sentences, and four medical reprieves. Some were garden-variety acts of clemency, but 10 were issued to allow the recipients to avoid the immigration consequences of their criminal activity. Three of the latter variety really stand out.
Saengsavan Choum was convicted in 1999 in California for voluntary manslaughter. He was 21 and the driver of a getaway car when his partner shot and killed a rival gang member. Choum received a sentence of four years for that offense.
Duc Nguyen was 16 when he and associates got into a fight. One of those associates stabbed and killed one of the others in that affray. Nguyen was sentenced to 14 years for voluntary manslaughter in 2003.
Somdeng Thongsy was convicted of second degree murder and attempted second degree murder in 1997. He received a sentence of 27 years, four months to life for those convictions. At the age of 17, he and associates got into a fight with rival gang members. He shot and killed one of those rivals, and injured two others.
The pardons for the three notes that each is facing “impending deportation”, although their immigration statuses are not listed. It is safe to assume, however, that each is in a lawful status, facing removal on criminal grounds relating to their convictions.
Pursuant to section 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the criminal grounds of removal in sections 237(a)(2)(A)(i) (for a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT)), (ii) (for two CIMTs not arising out of the same course of conduct), (iii) (for an aggravated felony or felonies), and (iv) (for high-speed flight from an immigration checkpoint) do not apply to a conviction if the alien “has been granted a full and unconditional” gubernatorial pardon.
Each of the individuals described above received a full and unconditional pardon from Governor Newsom.
Given these facts, and assuming that they do not have any other criminal convictions that would render them removable from the United States (and assuming that they are otherwise in a lawful immigration status), Newsom has, effectively, rendered Choum, Nguyen, and Thongsy not removable.
In any event, three aliens convicted of serious crimes in which someone died will likely be able to remain in the United States indefinitely. I say “the United States” because nothing prevents any of them from moving out of the Golden State, as six million others did between 2007 and 2016. If they reoffend in California, voters there can vote the governor out. If they reoffend elsewhere, however, the victims (and the community as a whole) will only have Gavin Newsom to blame.