California Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned five refugees from Cambodia and another immigrant from Honduras who faced the possibility of deportation because of their criminal convictions, the AP reports. The pardons were among more than 250 clemency decisions announced by the governor on Christmas Eve. According to Brown's office, the five Cambodians entered the country when they were 5 or younger. The pardons don't automatically stop deportation proceedings, but they eliminate the state convictions on which federal authorities might base deportation decisions. That gives the men's lawyers strong legal arguments before immigration judges to try to prevent their removal from the country.
In all, Brown issued 143 pardons and 131 commutations on Christmas Eve, and has a tradition of granting clemency requests on or near Christian holidays. Brown has now issued 283 commutations and 1,332 pardons since 2011—far more pardons than any California governor since at least the 1940s. He issued 404 pardons and one commutation during his first two terms as governor from 1975-1983. This is expected to be Brown's last round of clemency action as governor, but he has until he leaves office Jan. 7 to act. People receiving pardons Monday include Louis Honig, a former state superintendent of public instruction convicted in the 1990s on conflict of interest charges, and two people from Paradise who lost their homes in the recent wildfire. (Brown also ordered DNA tests for a man sitting on death row.)