HomeCommunity IssuesReformed inmate deported after serving 26 years in San Quentin

Reformed inmate deported after serving 26 years in San Quentin

Phoeun You turned his life around and received an early parole after serving 26 years in San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco.

But his freedom didn’t last long. Authorities turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in January. Now the Visalia Times reports on Wednesday authorities deported him to Cambodia where he hasn’t lived since he was a baby.

“It’s very sad that Governor Newsom could have done more to intervene but chose not to,” said James Bunyou, Phoeun’s oldest brother, in a statement sent to AsAmNews. “He isn’t listening to our community outcry. Our family would like to thank all of the friends that came out to support him and fight for Phoeun to stay.”  

The Chronicle reports You’s family fled Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge in the 70s. Authorities convicted him in 1995 of fatally shooting a man with a bullet intended for someone else. During his time in San Quentin You became a certified crisis counselor sponsored by Bay Area Women against Rape. He mentored other inmates and earned an associate’s degree.

The entire city council in Oakland where he hoped to settle urged Newsom to pardon You as did State Senators Lena Gonzalez, Nancy Skinner, and Scott Weiner; Assemblymembers Mia Bonta, Alex Lee and Patrick O’Donnell.

Newsom declined to act.

Despite the deportation, Governor Newsom can still pardon Phoeun and reunite him with his family and community. Community members are also raising funds to support Phoeun in Cambodia, a country to which he has no ties. 

“There are no words to fully capture the cruelty of this moment. Phoeun should be home with his family, not deported to a country he escaped as a child,” said So Young Lee of the Asian Law Caucus in an emailed statement to AsAmNews.  “There’s still time for Gov. Newsom to affirm the best of California’s values, pardon Phoeun so that he could come home, and support the VISION Act so that we never again turn our neighbors and loved ones over to ICE.


AB 937 (Carrillo), the VISION Act, would mandate that after an inmate’s release from state prison or local jail, they are not turned over to ICE detention. The bill has already passed the State Assembly and is headed for a full senate vote after passing out of two committees.

You had a chance to call loved ones Tuesday to say goodbye.

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