Freedom Campaigns

Freedom Campaigns: Charles Joseph

Join our Freedom Campaign for Charles Joseph

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Learn More About Charles Joseph

Photo of Charles Joseph

In California, prison and ICE collaboration impacts immigrants and refugees who have served time in state prison. Instead of returning to their families, immigrants who are found suitable for parole are directly transferred into ICE detention facilities where they await deportation.

This form of double-punishment and exile is cruel and separates families. As the faith community, we are called to practice forgiveness, generosity and compassion for immigrants, and those who are incarcerated. 

One way to stop this prison-to-ICE-to-deportation pipeline is for Governor Newsom to intervene and grant pardons for Charles Joseph, Liyah Birru, and other beloved community members.

Charles Joseph is an example of one community member impacted by this prison and ICE collaboration. Charles is a father, husband, artist, musician, and Indo-Fijian leader. He came to the U.S. from Fiji as a permanent resident as a teenager. After being imprisoned at age 22, Charles transformed his life while serving his 13 year sentence by participating in violence prevention programs and developing his artistic talent. However, after winning parole, because of current policy, he was transferred directly into ICE detention and is now facing deportation.

“Charles’ story illustrates the immorality of our legal system, where his conduct as a 22 year old youth is being used to permanently deprive him of the basic right to go home, and reunite with his family and community.” says his lawyer, Francisco Ugarte, SF Public Defender

If Charles is deported to Fiji it would create more trauma for his family. His wife Shelly says, “With my husband in detention it’s already a separation, but for him to think that he may not be able to come home and the uncertainty makes it unstable for me and my family emotionally and physically. A pardon will be our last hope to finally become complete and be a family.”

UPDATE: On April 13, 2020, Charles was released from Mesa Verde Detention Center after a Federal Judge ordered ICE to release him along with three others detained who were at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 infection. Charles is currently living at home with his family in Sacramento, continuing to support the efforts to release others still detained by ICE and continuing to pursue his pardon application with Governor Newsom.

More Videos featuring Charles Joseph

Charles Joseph, and others in the Mesa Verde detention center, speak on Define American, July 16. 2020.
Charles Joseph Pardon Campaign Event held on August 30, 2020. The co-sponsors for this event included Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Kehilla Community Synagogue, San Francisco Public Defenders, Congregation B’Nai Israel Sacramento, SacAct, All of Us Or None – Sacramento, Jewish for Voice for Peace-Sacramento, NorCal Resist, KWESI, Restore Justice, and UC Davis Asian American Studies Dept.

Charles Joseph spoke on KALW’s Uncuffed podcast on April 8, 2019.

Freedom Campaigns

Welcome Home, Chanthon Bun!

Mr. Bun (center) with friends and supporters after his release from San Quentin. July 1, 2020.

Today, Chanthon Bun was not turned over to ICE after serving his time at San Quentin State Prison.

Chanthon Bun, a 41-year old Cambodian refugee who was sentenced to over 40 years in prison at the age of 18 and who was found suitable for parole by Gov. Newsom, was released into the care of the community. He was received by eager community members, faith leaders, and friends ready to aid in his re-entry back into society.

Chanthon Bun in San Quentin: “To live is to hope”

“To live is to hope,” says Chanthon Bun on his first day of freedom. “For me this means to never give up hope and keep on fighting.”

His experience – one of community care, not continued punishment – should be a model for the experience of everyone who is being released by CDCR. This is what it means to “treat the immigrant the same as the native born, to love them as ourselves” (Leviticus 19:34). Gov. Newsom can and must stop collaboration and transfers between CDCR and ICE today.

Ny Nourn, Community Advocate at the Asian Law Caucus, shares it best, reflecting on her own recent pardon from Governor Newsom: “I am grateful to Gov. Newsom for his pardon, and I want to ask him to extend clemency to other currently and formerly incarcerated refugees, immigrants, and survivors facing deportation like I was. California can take a step in the right direction and end the prison-to-ICE pipeline.”

Currently there are over 1000 active cases of COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison. Immediately after his release, community members took Chanthon Bun to be tested, and he tested positive for COVID-19. If ICE had transferred him to ICE detention, he may not have survived, because he is immunocompromised, and would have further spread the illness. All transfers from San Quentin and other CDCR prisons and ICE detention must be halted immediately.

Today, Chanthon Bun is here with us. None of us are free, until all of us are free.

KALW radio, July 7, 2020: “San Quentin Has The Worst COVID Outbreak In California. Chanthon Bun Was There”. Ten minute interview by Ninna Gaensler-Debs.

“I ran around the building, saying goodbye to my friends. But most of them were bedridden … They were all sick. But I still came around and said goodbye to every one of them.”

San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 2020: “Cambodian refugee released from San Quentin to community, not ICE”

Representatives with the Interfaith Movement, which is offering housing to Bun, said in a statement that Bun’s experience — “one of community care, not continued punishment” if he had been transferred to an ICE facility upon his release — “should be a model for the experience of everyone who is being released” by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. While immigrant advocates in the Bay Area said they will provide food resources and get him connected to other services as part of his “re-entry back into society,” Interfaith Movement officials said their call for Newsom to “stop collaboration and transfers between CDCR and ICE” remains.

Read the full article here

PRI/PRX The World radio program, July 14, 2020:
He’s out of prison and has COVID-19. But he’s still sheltering from ICE.”

Weeks before Bun’s release, Anoop Prasad [a longtime immigration lawyer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus] and others launched a public campaign, holding rallies and phone banks to stop the authorities from handing over Bun and other inmates to ICE.

Chanthon Bun, middle, and his family shortly after arriving in the United States in the early 1980s after fleeing Cambodia and the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge. 
Credit:Courtesy of Chanthon Bun

The PRI story was reprinted in The Week, July 18, “Prison-to-ICE transfers of immigrants scrutinized during the pandemic.

June 30, 2020. Message supporters of Canthon Bun. #ComeHomeChanthon #StopICEtransfers #StopSanQuentinOutbreak #FreeThemAll