California’s Governor has a Christmas tradition of issuing pardons.

This year, the Governor upped the game by defying the current presidential administrations aggressive stance on undocumented immigrants by pardoning two of those immigrants before they could be deported. The Governor called his actions a mercy.

His actions come as federal authorities are rounding up and deporting more immigrants due to prior felony convictions — many of them minor and decades in the past. With the reasons for their deportation now gone, the men are free to apply to the immigration court to take a new look at their cases — although that’s no guarantee.

According to immigration attorneys, deportations have been heavily concentrated among the Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant population in California. The two pardoned immigrants were both Cambodian.

One of the men was convicted of nothing more than joyriding fifteen years ago. The other was convicted of having a weapon, being in a gang and obtaining stolen property — but the conviction was in 1995 and he’s been clean ever since. In addition, both men entered the country as children when their parents fled the brutal Khmer Rouge.

A judge has granted both men temporary restraining orders that stopped their imminent deportation. Both hope to eventually become legal citizens of the United States.

This isn’t the Governor’s first go-round with the federal authorities over the issue. In October, he signed legislation “sanctuary state” laws that stop state and local authorities from being particularly cooperative with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities. He has also allocated millions out of the state budget to mount a tide of legal challenges to anti-immigration policies coming down the federal pike.

Incidents like this illustrate that deportation and removal isn’t always the automatic result of detention by ICE. It’s important for anyone facing the possibility to seek legal advice as soon as practical.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “Defying Trump again, Jerry Brown pardons immigrants about to be deported,” Christopher Cadelago and Anita Chabria, Dec. 23, 2017