President Donald Trump blasted California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday for his pardon of five ex-convicts facing deportation, including two who fled the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia with their families four decades ago.
In a tweet, Trump referred to Brown as "Moonbeam,'' referencing a nickname a newspaper columnist coined for him in the 1970s. Trump then listed the ex-convicts' crimes before they were pardoned Friday. They include misdemeanor domestic violence, drug possession, and kidnapping and robbery.
Trump wrote: "Is this really what the great people of California want?''
A spokesman for Brown responded to a request for comment with more information about the five men but did not directly address Trump's criticism.
In a news release about the pardons on Friday, the governor's office said that "those granted pardons all completed their sentences years ago and the majority were convicted of drug-related or other non-violent crimes.''
"Pardons are not granted unless they are earned,'' the governor's office said.
Hayward resident Daniel Maher is one of the men pardoned by Brown and he says he is happy to be looking forward.
Maher served time in prison years ago for an armed robbery conviction and he was later held by ICE for more than a year.
"It's a huge big deal for me," he said. "My entire family cried."
Maher is the recycling program manager at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, but until now, he was at high risk of being deported to Macau where he was born.
After serving six years in prison for his attempted kidnapping conviction and spending another year and a half incarcerated after ICE picked him up from state prison, Maher says he has tried to give back to the community, helping at-risk youth in Berkeley.
He says he is grateful the governor recognized those contributions and pardoned him, though he recognizes that the president was referring to him as the person convicted of kidnapping and robbery in his tweets.
However, Maher says he has paid his price and is commited to giving back, and now that he will no longer have a felony on his record, he’s relieved he can likely stay in the country he loves and focus on a much brighter future.
"This development opens doors and opportunities," he said.
Gov. Brown granted 56 pardons including the ones president trump referenced in his tweet.
Those granted pardons completed their sentences and the majority were convicted of drug-related and other nonviolent crimes.
Associated Press contributed to this report.