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US governor pardons two Cambodian refugees facing deportation

California Governor Jerry Brown delivers a speech in Pennsylvania in 2016. Brown pardoned two Cambodian-American refugees on Saturday, potentially halting their deportations to Cambodia. SAUL LOEB/AFP
California Governor Jerry Brown delivers a speech in Pennsylvania in 2016. Brown pardoned two Cambodian-American refugees on Saturday, potentially halting their deportations to Cambodia. SAUL LOEB/AFP

US governor pardons two Cambodian refugees facing deportation

Two Cambodian refugees facing possible deportation from the US were pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday.

California residents Sokha Chhan and Phann Pheach were among five immigrants slated for deportation who were pardoned by Brown.

Chhan, who entered the US as a 13-year-old as his family was fleeing the Khmer Rouge, served nearly a year in jail for the misdemeanour of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, according to the governor’s office.

After his conviction, Chhan turned his life around, raised five children and served in the US Army Reserve. “Whether it was working in the fields, working as a mechanic or baking donuts for 12-13 hours every day with no days off, he never gave up on us,” his daughter wrote to the governor’s office.

Pheach, who entered the US as a 1-year-old, served six months for possession of a controlled substance for sale and for obstructing a police officer. Since then, he “has lived an honest and upright life”, according to the governor’s office.

Bill Herod, founder of Phnom Penh-based NGO Returnee Integration Support Center, called the pardons “great news”.

“We were in contact with Phann Pheach’s wife and were expecting to see him here this week,” Herod said in a message. “We hope there are many, many more pardons.”

Herod added that the pardons do not exclude the possibility that Chhan and Pheach will still be deported, but they may reduce it.

Brown previously pardoned two Cambodian refugees in December who were also on the brink of being deported.

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