California gov. Gavin Newsom pardons three immigrants facing deportation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor announced Friday that he is pardoning three more immigrants facing the possibility they will be deported, continuing a string of such actions that challenge the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigrants who committed crimes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also commuted the life sentences of two youthful offenders who can now seek parole.
Newsom’s office said the three facing deportation “made bad decisions” while breaking the law as teenagers or young adults, but they served their sentences and transformed their lives. Deporting them now would be “an unjust collateral consequence” harming their families and communities.
The three hail from Iran, El Salvador and Cambodia, but all now live in Los Angeles County. He also pardoned a fourth man, Curtis Reynolds, 59, of Sacramento County, who was convicted of six drug felonies between 1998 and 2003.
Pardons do not automatically protect someone from deportation because they don’t erase the criminal convictions on which deportation orders often are based. But they do emphasize the person’s rehabilitation. Superior court judges previously granted two of the three immigrants, plus Reynolds, certificates of rehabilitation and recommended that they receive pardons.
Newsom and his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, have granted several such commutations since Trump took office.
The three newly pardoned immigrants are:
— Arnou Aghamalian, 42, who was convicted 20 years ago of helping his cousin set an unoccupied car on fire. The car belonged to a nightclub manager who had been arguing with his cousin. Aghamalian now owns a solar energy company and has a wife and twin newborns, according to Newsom’s office. He legally entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iran with his family when he was 15.
— Victor Ayala, 38, who was convicted of felony robbery in 2001 when he shoved a security guard after shoplifting items from an electronic store. He had four prior misdemeanor convictions for theft and a hit and run in which no one was injured. The father of three now runs a carpet cleaning business. He was 2 years old when he and his parents lawfully came to the U.S. from El Salvador.
— Thear Sam, 41, who was convicted of robbing a man of his wallet and backpack when he was 18. He was later convicted of being an accessory after he separately gave a man a ride after the man stole a car, led police on a high-speed chase and escaped on foot. He has worked more than 17 years for an aviation company, and his wife and daughter are both U.S. citizens. He was 4 when he lawfully entered the U.S. as a refugee from Cambodia fleeing the Khmer Rouge.
Separately, the two men whose life sentences Newsom commuted can now go before the state parole board, which will decide if they can be safely released into the community. They also are both from Los Angeles County:
— Esdvin Flores, 44, has served more than 20 years for pointing a gun at a victim while his crime partner pulled a gold chain from her neck. Newsom’s office said he has since been mentoring at-risk youth.
— Jensen Ramos, 35, has served 17 years for attempted murder after shooting at a fleeing vehicle following a fight at a house party, though no one was injured. He is a lead trainer in the Paws for Life rescue dog training program, which says it has had the most commutations of life sentences of any program in the state.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined comment.