Activists Urge Gov. Newsom to Pardon Cambodian Refugee Facing Deportation

NBC Universal, Inc.

Supporters of a recently paroled immigrant are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene and prevent him from being deported.

Phoeun You escaped Cambodia as a child refugee, but killed a man decades ago. He served his time and now there is a growing call within multiple communities to let him remain in the United States and the Bay Area.

Deportation for You can come at any moment, which is why dozens of friends, family and even city leaders gathered Thursday in Oakland begging for his immediate release. You's supporters hope the governor will answer the call.

You is fighting to stay in America after serving 26 years in prison for murder. He shot a man back when he was 20 in retaliation for harming a family member. Friends argue he has turned his life around by becoming a mentor and receiving an education while behind bars.

You was granted parole, but then handed over to federal immigration agents. His brother argues he has already served his time and deserves to come home.

"Hopefully he can remain here because that is where he should be," brother James Bun You said. "This is his home."

Oakland city leaders agree and is asking the governor to pardon You and stop deportations all together -- saying sending him back to a county he fled as a child would be inhumane.

"We support Phoeun coming back to his family here in the United States of America and that we should actually not be handing people over to ICE anymore," councilmember Sheng Thao said. "That is archaic. That is not just."

NBC Bay Area spoke to You by phone from an ICE detention facility.

"To return back to the community would give me redemption," he said. "It would give me an opportunity to give back to the community that's hurting right now and in some small way I just want to give back and restore the humanity that was lost."

You's deportation is based on his conviction. Advocates said if the governor pardon's him, ICE would have no cause to deport him.

"He's getting punished again," You's attorney So Young Lee said. "This would be completely unjust for our communities to be again stripped away from someone who is extremely valued in our community."

Contact Us