One year after Easter pardons, Cambodian refugees find fragile stability

By Agnes Constante

LOS ANGELES — Sokha Chhan was relieved when he learned that he was granted a pardon from then-California Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

He had come to the United States from Cambodia as a war refugee about four decades ago, but faced possible deportation to the country that he barely remembered after being convicted of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant and threatening a crime in 2002, for which he served about a year in prison. He was happy to know he would be able to stay with his community in Northern California.

“Even though it’s my birth country, it’s like going back to a foreign country with no family or friends,” Chhan, 50, told NBC News. “That’s why I’m happy I get to stay here with my children and my family.”

Chhan was one of two Cambodian nationals who came to the U.S. as refugees at risk of deportation who received gubernatorial pardons from Brown the Friday before Easter last year. The other was Phann Pheach, 36, a Southern California resident.