Through exceptional representation by Joanne Kalas of Foster Pepper PLLC and those at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Sophy Hem’s criminal conviction was successfully pardoned and his lawful permanent resident status was restored. Saved from the imminent threat of deportation, Sophy was able to maintain his life with his family and stay in the only country he has ever known.
Despite being a national of Cambodia, Sophy has never been to the country to which he risked being deported. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Sophy came to the US when he was just three months old. His family fled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1981 and entered the United States as refugees. In 1997, Sophy faced three charges involving a fireman that led to a sentence totaling about four years. While incarcerated, he was informed for the first time that he was not a US citizen and transferred to a detention center upon completing his sentence.
Like many other Cambodian immigrants, he was able to live and work in the United States conditionally on annual check-ins with immigration due to Cambodia’s refusal to repatriate their people. Due to a changing political environment, immigration authorities have begun escalating their efforts targeted at Cambodians. With his brother recently deported, Sophy took the courageous step of seeking a pardon in light of the increasing threat posed to him and his family.
Speaking in support of his petition, both Sophy’s wife and teenage daughter expressed the love and support that he provides their family. His daughter shared that he encourages her to stay on the right path with school and teaches her the value of education. He is a successful businessman that could fully thrive if not in fear of deportation. Most critically, he provides care and financial support for his young son, Sophy Jr., who has severe health issues. The threat of deportation posed psychological as well as physical consequences for the Hem family.
Thankfully, the efforts by both those at Foster Pepper PLLC and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project prevented such a devastation. As Seattle Clemency Project’s first pardon case, Sophy Hem demonstrates all that characterizes an American citizen and will serve as a guide for similarly deserving individuals.