NEWS: Gov Newsom has pardoned Kao Saelee + Bounchan Keola, two formerly incarcerated firefighters facing deportation to Laos, which they fled as kids.

“This is all I wanted – a second chance. We came to this country to have a better life," Boun told me.

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
This is huge for both men who spent decades in California prison for teenage convictions and then at the end of their sentences last year were transferred directly to ICE for deportation. Both told their stories from ICE jails, prompting national outrage + calls for their pardons
Both of them had fled persecution as children, resettling in the US after the Vietnam war. They grew up in poverty + under CA harsh sentencing laws, were sent away for decades over adolescent cases. While in prison, they served the state as firefighters making a few dollars a day
Instead of coming home last year at the end of their sentences, they spent months in ICE jails threatened with deportation. They were both eventually released this year, but their cases were still in limbo. With @GavinNewsom pardon today, they will no longer face deportation
They can be legal permanent residents again, get work authorization, eventually apply for citizenship.

“I could never have imagined this would happen, I'm so emotional right now," Kao told me. He was just released last week and is now getting to spend with his niece and nephew
Boun got an unexpected call from @GavinNewsom himself. “I thought somebody was trying to prank me, but he said, ‘Thank you for your service as a firefighter and keep up the good work.'" Boun hopes the pardon will clear the way for him to work as firefighter again.
“I’m glad Governor Newsom was able to see that they are more than their teenage convictions, and I hope he sees the same is true for so many people inside prison" -@anoop_alc of @aaaj_alc, who represented them and is now pushing the #VISIONAct which would end transfers to ICE.
It's worth noting that while Newsom has issued these pardons in the face of intense pressure from lawmakers and advocates, the practice of transfers from prison to ICE has continued, and so have the deportations of refugees under Biden:

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
More from Kao + Bounchan, via @aaaj_alc:

"California is the only home I have ever known + I hope the state chooses to stop turning over its residents to ICE so that no one else will have to go through this.”

"People can turn their lives around and deserve second chances."

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More from @SamTLevin

24 May
I hung out with The Linda Lindas.

“It’s good because I get to scream a lot – all of the anger that builds up, it’s good to let it out.”

theguardian.com/music/2021/may…
“I grew up with the DIY culture of punk, going to punk shows, making mixtapes – with the idea that anyone can do whatever,” -Eloise, 13, finishing 7th grade. “Punk is anything we want it to be. I like DIY because it’s whatever you feel like. It doesn’t have to be a certain way.”
“It was my first experience of racism + I didn’t really know how to respond,” - Mila, 10, who wrote Racist, Sexist Boy with Eloise after a boy told her he was avoiding Chinese people. “The song lets people know they are not alone. It felt good to write. It made us feel better.”
Read 8 tweets
20 May
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:
theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
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.
Read 14 tweets
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."

(thread)⬇️

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
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:

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
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.

(Thread)

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
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

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