NEWS: Kao Saelee, the incarcerated California firefighter who was facing deportation to Laos, has been released from ICE. He spent 22 yrs in prison + then ten months in ICE jail, after CA handed him over to immigration authorities.

Today, he finally reunited with his family
Kao spent two yrs fighting wildfires as a CA prisoner, but due to @GavinNewsom's policy of sending people to ICE for deportation at the end of their sentences, Kao was flown to Louisiana ICE jail last year, instead of returning to his CA family. My story:…
Because CA partners with ICE, Kao has been stuck in detention during Covid, facing deportation to Laos, a country his family fled as refugees when he was two years old.

“I paid my debt to society, and I think I should have a chance to be with my family,” he told me last Sept.
When Kao was due to be released last August, his sister was waiting outside the prison to take him home for the first time in two decades. Instead, guards handed Kao over to a private security contractor for ICE who shackled his hands, waist + legs, put him in a van and drove off
ICE first jailed him in Fresno, then flew him to Texas + then to Pine Prairie ICE jail in Louisiana, a facility that had a major Covid outbreak. He's been stuck there since, thousands of miles from his family, given short ten minute calls to talk to them.
His story sparked huge outrage. He got support from dozens of CA lawmakers and @AOC, who called on @GavinNewsom to stop transferring people to ICE and to pardon Kao (so he wouldn't be faced with deportation). Newsom has not pardoned him, but he was finally released anyway.
Kao said today (via his advocates at @aaaj_alc): "I am grateful to finally be free and reunited with my family in California, the only home I have ever known. The past ten months in ICE detention in Louisiana have been incredibly difficult... (con)
... I hope that California chooses to stop turning over its residents to ICE so that no one else will have to go through this.”

He is now reuniting with his family outside of prison for the first time since he was a teenager.
@aaaj_alc is advocating for the Vision Act, a bill that would stop CA from transferring people from jail + prison to ICE , protecting thousands from deportation.

"Newsom must ensure that others do not have to go through the same experience as Mr. Saelee" - @anoop_alc
More background on that legislation here:…
A reminder that the transfers and deportations have not stopped under the new administration. Here's my recent piece on Tien Pham, and longtime California resident and one of many Vietnamese refugees who have been deported by Biden:…
Also worth noting that Kao Saelee's immigration status is still in limbo, and @GavinNewsom could still protect him through a pardon, which @aaaj_alc and CA lawmakers are continuing to demand. Here's Assemblymember @LorenaSGonzalez
Another photo of Kao Saelee on his first day of freedom after two decades, from his sister.

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More from @SamTLevin

19 May
NEW: I found cases across California where police spread falsehoods about the people they've killed, with major inaccuracies that can go uncorrected for years.

“The George Floyd press release was not an anomaly. It's standard procedure."

I found cases where police:

-cited vague “medical emergencies” without disclosing officers caused the emergencies through use of force.

-falsely claimed civilians were armed

-falsely claimed they overdosed

-blatantly misrepresented the civilian's actions before the killing
When Dujuan Armstrong, 23, died inside Santa Rita Jail, the Alameda Co Sheriff reported it as a “drug overdose." A spokesman said he was acting “bizarre,” adding: “The deputies saw him in distress. They called medics immediately.”

More than a year later, the truth came out (TW):
Read 20 tweets
4 May
Los Angeles sheriff deputies frequently harass the families of people they have killed, including taunting them at vigils, parking outside their homes, and following them and pulling them over for no reason, according to a new report:…
The families of Paul Rea, 18-year-old killed during a traffic stop, and Anthony Vargas, 21-year-old shot 13 times, describe constant harassment by LASD deputies when gathering to grieve and honor their loved ones -- mocking, taunting, threats, stops + searches, arrests + more:
Read 12 tweets
3 May
NEW: Tien Pham, 38, was deported by Biden and separated from his family after decades in California.

“America is my home. My family, my loved ones, my friends, they are all there,” he told me from Ho Chi Minh City.

Tien is a Vietnamese refugee whose family fled violence + resettled in the US when he was 13 years old. He was prioritized for deportation by the Biden administration due to an old teenage conviction.

He is one of thousands of people who have been deported by Biden.
Tien grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. His father had served in the South Vietnamese army alongside the US, and ended up imprisoned in a “re-education” camp where he was forced to work and ate rodents to survive. Tien faced severe violence in Ho Chi Minh City as a kid.
Read 20 tweets
27 Apr
There are many police killings with similarities to the George Floyd murder that receive almost no attention. Last year, LAPD killed Daniel Rivera, with officers holding him largely face down on the ground for roughly 7 minutes. He was unarmed and in distress. (thread)
On 8/14/20, LAPD was responding to reports of an alleged burglary attempt + came upon Daniel, 37, who was standing near a ravine in Arleta. He hopped a fence into the wash + may have fallen / was lying on the ground, largely not moving, as police approached, body cam video shows
Even though he was unarmed and not moving, and had his hands behind his head, one officer kneeled on his back, two others handcuffed him, one shoved his face into the ground, and another shocked him with a Taser four times, causing his body to convulse.
Read 10 tweets
30 Mar
NEW: I interviewed trans kids across the US about the Republican bills targeting their rights. Many have faced these attacks for years and are now seeing the bills become law.

Here are some of their stories (thread) ⬇️…
Wyatt, 14, South Dakota, is banned from using the boys bathroom. He has to walk across the school to get to the single-stall staff restroom: "This is a basic human need ... I’ve asked my guy friends if they’d be uncomfortable if I was in the boys’ restroom. They wouldn’t."
Wyatt has faced anti-trans bills since he was 11: "As a 14-year-old, I shouldn’t have to worry about my rights being taken away. I should not have to go out of my way to make other people happy. I’m not a problem to society. I just hope by the time I’m 18, things are better."
Read 15 tweets
28 Jan
NEWS: Bounchan Keola, the incarcerated firefighter who California sent to ICE for deportation, is free after 22 years.

He was released from ICE custody yesterday and is now reuniting with his family for the first time in decades: Image
When Boun was working as an incarcerated firefighter last fall, he suffered a near-death injury.

He had two weeks left of his sentence at the time, but California transferred him to ICE instead of releasing him to his family. My story from November:…
Boun, 39, has been incarcerated since age 16. If California had not reported him to ICE, he would've gone home last year to his family and received medical treatment for his firefighting injuries.

Instead, he's been stuck in ICE jail, threatened with deportation to Laos.
Read 12 tweets

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