Kao Salee,41, was set for discharge last month after serving 22 years in prison for a robbery case. During his imprisonment, he worked as a volunteer firefighter in 2018 and 2019.
He was positioned in the program for his good conduct and planned for his release but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation handed him over to ICE and jailed at a detention center in Louisiana. The center reportedly has over 60 cases of COVID-19.
Anoop Prasad, Salee’s lawyer, said his client’s condition is similar to refugees of Southeast Asian ancestry who experienced poverty, violence, and incarceration. Salee’s family fled from a refugee camp in Thailand and settled in California in 1987.
The Asian Law Caucus: Asian Americans Advancing Justice has created a petition on Change.org to ask Gov. Newsom to stop inmate transfer to ICE and for the release of Salee.
This summer, Saelee completed his sentence and looked forward to reuniting with his family after 22 years of separation from his loved ones. Saelee youngest sister drove to Pleasant Valley State Prison to pick him up. However, instead of being released, and despite his record of working as an incarcerated firefighter, Gov. Newsom allowed CDCR to transfer Saelee to ICE. Saelee now faces deportation to a country his family fled when he was two years old.
Saelee’s incarceration has already had devastating impacts on his family, and they are eager to welcome him home and make up for lost time. Gov. Newsom and CDCR have no legal obligation to work with ICE, and must cut ties with Trump’s deportation machine.