A US governor granted pardons on Sunday to two Cambodian refugees who were on the verge of being deported to the Kingdom.
Like many of the returnees who have been deported to Cambodia since 2002, Mony Neth and Mao Rottanak Kong entered the US as refugee children fleeing the Khmer Rouge and were convicted of nonviolent crimes in their youth.
They were among more than 50 Cambodians detained in recent immigration raids and scheduled to be deported from the US last week when a last-minute order from a US judge temporarily stopped the plane.
On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Neth and Rottanak Kong for their crimes, in keeping with Christmas tradition, along with 130 others.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, which filed a class action lawsuit against the US government last month to try to stop the deportations, told US media that the pardons could potentially stop Neth and Rottanak Kong from being deported, although they still have legal battles ahead.
Neth was sentenced in 1995 in California for receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of a weapon, and served one year and nine months in prison, according to his pardon. He is now a construction foreman and leading member of his church community.
Rottanak Kong was sentenced in 2003 in California for stealing a car and evading a police officer, and served seven months in prison. His pardon notes that “several individuals wrote in support of Mr Kong, describing him as kind and generous, and as a role model”.