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Illegal Immigrants Seek Governor’s Pardon Over Deportation

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(Via LA Times)

The two Cambodian refugees living in Northern California had been convicted of crimes years ago and, under the Trump administration’s more aggressive immigration enforcement policies, those offenses had placed them on a path toward deportation.

But on Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the pardons of both men — Mony Neth of Modesto and Rottanak Kong of Davis — saying they had paid their debts to society and now lived honest and upright lives.

Immigration is a federal, not state, responsibility, but attorneys for the men hope the pardons will eliminate the rationale for deporting them. Across the country, immigration attorneys are doing the same: seeking gubernatorial pardons in last-ditch attempts to forestall deportations or allow the deported to return to the U.S.

Targeting convicted criminals for deportation isn’t a new idea; it was a priority under President Obama, who deported more people than any of his predecessors. But during the Obama administration, only those with serious crimes on their records were targeted for removal. President Trump has cast a much wider net.

Shortly after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of people in the U.S. illegally who have criminal convictions. In addition to speeding up the deportation of convicts, Trump’s orders also called for quick removal of people in the country illegally who are charged with crimes and waiting for adjudication.

And federal officials began to act swiftly.

In June, immigration authorities in Michigan rounded up more than 100 Iraqi nationals with criminal backgrounds. A month later, about 40 of them asked Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for pardons.

Among those seeking a reprieve was Usama Hamama, 54, who co-owns a market in the Detroit area. Hamama, who came to the United States as a refugee when he was 11, was convicted of felony assault and carrying a gun in a vehicle in 1988. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Since 1992, he has faced the threat of deportation, but that hadn’t been a real possibility until the Trump administration.

Hamama’s attorney, Bill Swor, who works closely with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, described his client’s crime as a low-level road rage incident. Since then, he said, Hamama has raised a family and opened his small business.

“A pardon would wipe clean this offense and his record,” Swor said of Hamama, who is being held in a federal immigration detention facility in Michigan. “He was in the country legally when the offense occurred, so a pardon takes us back to that status.”

Last month, Hamama’s 12-year-old daughter, Lindsey, wrote a letter to a federal judge overseeing her father’s case. She also sent a copy to the governor.

“All I want for Christmas,” she wrote, “is my dad home and nothing else.”

The governor’s office has not made a decision on a pardon.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, received a similar plea — this one from an Army veteran with a felony drug conviction. Miguel Perez Jr., 39, joined the military in 2001 as a legal permanent resident and served two tours in Afghanistan.

In 2008, he was convicted of distributing less than 100 grams of cocaine. Perez, a native of Mexico, served half of his 15-year prison sentence but had his residency revoked as a result of the conviction and is being held in a detention center in Wisconsin.

Rauner hasn’t decided whether he’ll grant the pardon.

Gubernatorial pardons don’t guarantee an immigrant facing deportation could remain in the U.S., but they might have an effect, said Jason Cade, an associate professor of law at the University of Georgia, who characterized it as a case-by-case issue.

For example, Cade said, if an immigrant has a drug conviction that makes them subject to deportation and that conviction is pardoned, then deportation should no longer be an option.

“The bottom line is that full and unconditional pardons should absolutely be effective as a defense against deportation in cases where the conviction triggers certain removal categories — specifically those targeting aggravated felonies … or multiple criminal convictions,” said Cade, who has written extensively on immigration law.

Though the federal government may still have grounds to deport someone, Cade said, a pardon might lead authorities “to exercise favorable discretion.”

But that hasn’t always happened.

This year, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, pardoned Liliana Cruz Mendez, a mother of two who lived in the suburbs outside Washington. Cruz Mendez, who was in the country illegally from El Salvador, was stopped for a minor traffic infraction in 2014; her car had a blown-out headlight.

George Escobar, senior director at CASA — an immigrant rights group in the Washington area — called McAuliffe’s pardon “a show of solidarity for her cause and the belief she should not have to leave this country.”

“We had hoped that it would sway” Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Escobar, who had worked to secure her pardon. “Unfortunately that was not the case.”

Federal immigration officials deported Cruz Mendez this summer.

But for others, especially people with green cards or other legal status, pardons have helped. Another common thread: living in a state with a Democratic governor who perhaps is looking to push back against the Trump administration.

In May, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, who in 2008 was mistakenly released early from prison, where he was serving time for a robbery conviction. Lima-Marin, who had fled Cuba in the 1980s, got married, had a son and started working. Six years later, in 2014, Colorado officials realized the mistake and took him back into custody.

This year, days after a judge released Lima-Marin, Hickenlooper pardoned him. Even so, Lima-Marin sits in an immigration detention center, though his attorneys are hopeful he will be released.

“In terms of rehabilitation, he demonstrated an ability to contribute to the fabric of his community and Colorado,” Hickenlooper said during a news conference around the time of the pardon. “He rebuilt his life. He’s become a law-abiding, productive member of his community.”

But in a different case this fall, Hickenlooper denied a pardon request from Ingrid Encalada Latorre, who has found sanctuary in churches throughout Colorado for much of the last year. Latorre, a native of Peru, has been living in the United States illegally for 15 years.

“We carefully look at each case and take a holistic approach when considering an application,” Hickenlooper said in an email. “Clemency is not the solution to our country’s broken immigration system.”

In California, Brown, a Democrat, has issued pardons that touched the lives of those facing deportation as well as those already removed from the country.

In 2015, Brown pardoned Eddy Zheng, an immigrant fighting deportation after spending more than two decades in prison for a robbery conviction. Zheng and his family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s from China. He remains in the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen in this year.

The pardons announced Saturday were granted to Neth, who was convicted on a felony weapons charge in 1995, and Kong, who was convicted on felony joyriding in 2003. In his pardon message, among several dozen issued, Brown said that since Neth and Kong left prison, both had gone on to become “law-abiding citizens.”

Of Kong, he added, “Indeed, several individuals wrote in support of Mr. Kong, describing him as kind and generous, and as a role model to those who face insurmountable challenges in their lives.”

Last spring, Brown pardoned two former Marines, Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal and Marco Antonio Chavez, as well as former soldier Hector Barajas Varela. All three had received honorable discharges from the military but later were convicted of crimes and eventually deported.

An immigration judge reinstated Chavez’s green card in November after Brown’s pardon. On Thursday, after 15 years in Mexico, Chavez returned to the U.S.

Moments after walking across the border near San Diego, he told reporters that he could hardly believe that this year his Christmas morning would begin with a hug from his relatives.

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Military

Lucas Gage Returns to X After Exposing Palestine Atrocities & Ban Over Alleged Harassment

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In today’s digital age, social media platforms serve as vital tools for raising awareness and advocating for causes. However, they also present challenges such as harassment and censorship. Recently, actor and activist Lucas Gage faced these challenges head-on when his X account was suspended for several months following harassment from certain groups unhappy with his efforts to expose war atrocities in Palestine. Now, after a prolonged absence, Gage has returned to X, ready to resume his important work of shedding light on crucial issues.

Lucas Gage, known for his roles in various television shows and films, has also been vocal about social justice issues, particularly regarding the Palestinian cause. His advocacy drew the ire of individuals and groups who disagreed with his stance. Gage utilized his platform on X to spotlight the human rights violations and war atrocities occurring in Palestine, which led to backlash from some pro-Israeli factions.

The backlash against Gage escalated into harassment, predominantly from individuals identifying themselves as Zionists. He faced a barrage of abusive messages, threats, and attempts to undermine his activism. Despite his efforts to report and block the harassers, the situation persisted, taking a toll on Gage’s mental well-being and sense of safety.

In a controversial decision, X suspended Gage’s account, citing violations of its community guidelines. Many criticized X for what they perceived as a failure to address harassment effectively, especially given the circumstances surrounding Gage’s case. The ban sparked debates about freedom of expression, censorship, and the responsibilities of social media platforms in safeguarding users from harassment and abuse.

After a hiatus spanning several months, Lucas Gage has made his comeback to X. His return has been met with an outpouring of support from fellow activists, fans, and individuals concerned about censorship and human rights. Gage expressed gratitude for the overwhelming solidarity he received during his absence and reiterated his dedication to advocating for justice and raising awareness about the plight of the Palestinian people.

The incident involving Lucas Gage underscores the significance of advocacy and the hurdles activists encounter, especially when addressing contentious issues. It also highlights the complexities of navigating social media platforms where differing viewpoints often clash, sometimes resulting in hostility and censorship.

As Gage resumes his activism on X, it is imperative to continue discussions about online harassment, censorship, and the necessity for improved mechanisms to shield users from abuse. Social media companies must reevaluate their policies and enforcement strategies to ensure that platforms remain spaces for constructive dialogue and activism, rather than avenues for harassment and stifling dissenting voices.

Lucas Gage’s return to X serves as a testament to the resilience of individuals committed to social justice causes despite facing obstacles and adversity. His experience sheds light on broader issues surrounding online harassment and censorship, prompting important conversations about the role of social media platforms in shaping public discourse. As Gage continues his advocacy, his story serves as inspiration for others to speak out against injustice and strive for positive change.

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Culture

Rabbi Shmuley Having ‘Nervous Breakdown’ says Alex Jones

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In the whirlwind of social media controversies, few can match the intensity and unpredictability of Alex Jones. Known for his provocative statements and unyielding conspiracy theories, Jones recently took to Twitter to express his disdain for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Purim costume choice.

In a scathing tweet, Jones condemned Rabbi Shmuley’s attire and behavior, accusing him of having a “nervous breakdown.” The rabbi had donned a costume portraying what he termed a “Candace Owens Jew,” accompanied by a bizarre ensemble featuring references to money and a provocative assertion about Jewish identity.

“For Purim I’ve dressed up as a Candace Owens Jew,” Rabbi Shmuley wrote, adding a string of controversial remarks about Jewish stereotypes and dual loyalties. The costume, seemingly intended as a satirical commentary, sparked outrage and criticism from many quarters.

Jones, never one to shy away from confrontation, seized the opportunity to denounce Rabbi Shmuley’s actions. “You go around starting fights with people and then flip out when they respond,” Jones tweeted. He urged the rabbi to seek help for the sake of his family, implying that Rabbi Shmuley’s behavior was symptomatic of a deeper issue.

The exchange between Jones and Rabbi Shmuley highlights the complexities of social media and the power of provocative speech. Both figures are no strangers to controversy, with Jones notorious for his conspiracy-laden rants and Rabbi Shmuley often courting controversy with his outspoken views on various issues.

Purim, a Jewish holiday known for its revelry and merrymaking, is traditionally marked by costume parties and playful satire. However, Rabbi Shmuley’s choice of attire crossed a line for many, tapping into sensitive issues of anti-Semitism and racial stereotypes.

By dressing as a caricatured version of a “Candace Owens Jew,” Rabbi Shmuley waded into dangerous territory, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and reinforcing negative perceptions of Jewish people. His attempt at satire fell flat for many, instead sparking condemnation and outrage.

In response, Alex Jones delivered a blistering rebuke, calling out Rabbi Shmuley’s behavior and urging him to seek help. While Jones himself is no stranger to controversy, his criticism of Rabbi Shmuley’s costume choice underscores the seriousness of the issue at hand.

In an era where social media amplifies voices and magnifies controversies, individuals must exercise caution and responsibility in their online interactions. What may seem like harmless satire to some can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and fuel division.

As the dust settles on this latest social media skirmish, it serves as a reminder of the power of words and the importance of thoughtful discourse. In a world already fraught with tensions and divisions, it is incumbent upon all of us to strive for understanding and empathy, even in the midst of disagreement.

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Border

AG Ken Paxton: “SB 4, is Now In Effect”

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In the heart of Texas, amidst the sweltering heat and the vast expanse of rugged terrain, a battle was being waged—a battle not fought with guns and swords, but with words and legal maneuvers. It was a clash between the Lone Star State and the might of the federal government, with the fate of immigration law hanging in the balance.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, stood at the forefront of this struggle. With unwavering determination and a deep sense of duty, he had taken up the mantle to defend Texas and its sovereignty against what he saw as overreach from the Biden Administration.

Just a few minutes ago, he had sent a tweet echoing across the digital landscape, announcing a monumental victory: “🚨🚨 HUGE WIN: Texas has defeated the Biden Administration’s and ACLU’s emergency motions at the Supreme Court. Our immigration law, SB 4, is now in effect.”

The news reverberated through the state like a thunderclap, igniting a spark of hope in the hearts of many Texans who had felt their voices drowned out by the clamor of national politics.

Among those who felt the weight of this victory was Maria Sanchez, a young immigrant who had come to Texas in search of a better life. For years, she had lived in the shadows, fearing the consequences of being discovered by authorities. But now, with SB 4 in effect, she felt a glimmer of hope that perhaps she could finally step out into the light without fear.

On the other side of the divide stood federal agents, tasked with enforcing the laws of the land as decreed by the Biden Administration. They watched with frustration as their efforts were thwarted by legal challenges and political maneuvering.

But for Ken Paxton, this victory was not just about winning in court—it was about standing up for what he believed was right. It was about defending the values and principles that he held dear, even in the face of adversity.

“As always, it’s my honor to defend Texas and its sovereignty, and to lead us to victory in court,” he declared, his words resounding with conviction.

The battle may have been won for now, but the war was far from over. In the days and weeks to come, the struggle between state and federal authority would continue to unfold, shaping the destiny of not just Texas, but the entire nation.

But for now, amidst the heat of the Lone Star State, a moment of triumph had been achieved—a testament to the resilience and determination of those who dared to stand up and fight for what they believed in.

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