With immigrant pardons, Gov. Brown butts heads again with White House

Butting heads once again with the White House on immigration, California Gov. Jerry Brown used a Christmas holiday tradition to grant pardons Saturday to two men who were on the verge of being deported for committing crimes while in the U.S.

Brown characterized the pardons as acts of mercy, according to an article on Saturday in the Sacramento Bee.

The Democratic governor moved as federal officials in recent months have detained and deported immigrants with felony convictions that resulted in the loss of their legal residency status, including many with nonviolent offenses from years ago.

With the pardons, the reason for deportation may be eliminated, lawyer Kevin Lo of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, which represented some of the men in a recent class-action lawsuit, said in the Bee. The pardoned immigrants will still need to ask immigration courts to reopen their cases, he said.

In all, Brown pardoned 132 people for mostly nonviolent and drug-related crimes, and commuted the sentences of 19 others, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Brown’s pardons involved two Northern California Cambodian men picked up in October in immigration sweeps, Mony Neth of Modesto and Rottanak Kong of Davis.

Kong was convicted on felony joyriding in 2003 in Stanislaus County at age 25 and sentenced to a year in jail. Neth was convicted on a felony weapons charge with a gang enhancement and a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property with a value of $400 or less in 1995 in Stanislaus County, The Bee said.

Both men came to the U.S. as children after their families fled the Khmer Rouge.

Brown last defied the White House in October by signing into law so-called “sanctuary state” legislation, placing limitations on state and local law enforcement’s ability to help federal officials enforce immigration violations.