He barely remembers Cambodia. He can be expelled there in a few hours

At any time, Phoeun You could be deported to a country he hasn’t seen since he was 4 years old.

Your family fled the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s and ended up in Long Beach. In 1995, when You was 20, he shot and killed a 17-year-old boy as he tried to shoot someone else. In the quarter century you spent in prison, he changed his life and himself, becoming a beloved mentor and friend, his friends and supporters say.

A representative from Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, which represents you, said on Tuesday afternoon officials were taking you to an airport, suggesting your deportation may be imminent.

You were granted parole in January and handed over to immigration authorities. The situation is a reminder that even in a state that seeks to be a sanctuary for immigrants and avoid immigration consequences for those convicted of crimes, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials are still working with immigration officers to deport people once they have completed their terms.

The state prison system handed over 1,615 former prisoners to federal immigration custody in 2020, according to records previously obtained by The Chronicle.

From October 2017 to September 2020, the federal government deported 222 people to Cambodia, according to the most recent statistics from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The deportations took place under a repatriation agreement signed by the two countries in 2002.

One person who could – or could have – stopped You’s deportation was Governor Gavin Newsom, whom You’s supporters have urged to grant him a pardon. Among the chorus calling for mercy are the entire Oakland City Council — You intended to live in the town of East Bay after it was liberated — and more than 300 religious leaders.

The governor’s office and immigration officials did not immediately respond to inquiries.

“I have served my sentence and have already been deemed not to be of public safety concern by Governor Gavin Newsom, who supported my parole,” You wrote in a Chronicle op-ed in late July. “Through my experiences, I have something to offer that can help heal our society troubled by violence.”

Your impending deportation comes as state lawmakers consider the VISION Act, which would end the practice of returning former prisoners who have served their time to ICE.

“I’m tired of a California justice system that punishes immigrants twice who have served their time, who have paid their debt to society, and who just want to be able to go home, start their lives over, and be with their families,” he said. said the assemblyman. Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, who introduced the bill that could go to a vote this month, said when the bill was announced.

Prior to being paroled, You was held at San Quentin State Prison, where he earned an associate’s degree and became a Certified Crisis Counselor sponsored by Bay Area Women Against Rape. He co-founded ROOTS, an ethnic studies program on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“He really helped me with my childhood trauma,” said Chanthon Bun, who was incarcerated with You in San Quentin. “I was going through a lot of trauma. And he helped me because he went through the same trauma – we come from the same genocide, we come from the camps.

Bun was granted parole in February 2020. He credits You’s support and guidance.

“I could never have presented myself as a new person in front of the (parole) board,” Bun said.

Before being driven to the airport, You spent Tuesday making goodbye calls and hoping the governor would save him.

Joshua Sharpe is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @joshuawsharpe

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