September 23, 2020
PRESS CONTACTS: SF Public Defender’s Office – (628)249-7946 – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org; Gala King – Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity – (510)759-4196 – GKing@im4humanintegrity.org
SF Board of Supervisors Unanimously Passes Resolution Urging Governor Newsom to Pardon Immigrant Rights Leader Charles Joseph
SAN FRANCISCO – Last night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution, authored by Supervisor Dean Preston and co-sponsored by every member of the Board of Supervisors, urging Governor Newsom to pardon Charles Joseph. Joseph, an immigrant rights leader, father and violence-prevention mentor who radically transformed his life while incarcerated, is facing deportation due to his past conviction. He is seeking a pardon to remain in the United States with his family in Sacramento, restore his status as a legal permanent resident, and continue contributing to his community.
“Charles Joseph’s story of transformation – both in his own life as well as his positive influence on the lives around him – is inspiring,” said Supervisor Dean Preston. “I am proud to stand with Mr. Joseph, along with my colleagues on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in urging the Governor to grant him an immediate and full pardon.”
“Charles Joseph has been a client of the Public Defender’s Office since May 2019, but he is much more than a client. Charles has become a leader and an ally in so many different ways — he has spoken out against unsafe conditions in immigration detention facilities, has been a featured speaker in nationwide panels about mass incarceration, and even conducted a training for my staff on the impact of ICE detention,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, whose Immigration Defense Unit represents Mr. Joseph in his deportation case. “We are part of the campaign to support Charles and his family because we know that he will continue to make a positive contribution in the movement for criminal justice reform as well as immigration reform.”
Charles Joseph came to the United States when he was 14 years old from Fiji, where his family faced persecution as ethnic and political minorities. His father was placed in deportation proceedings just one year later, leaving his mother to support the children. Although he always loved music, Mr. Joseph fell in with some bad influences and took part in a robbery when he was 22 years old, which sent him to prison for 12 years.
While in prison, Mr. Joseph became a leader and peacemaker, helping others to process their anger and express their creativity. He was able to have a music mentor, country music star Lacy Dalton, who has also offered her support for his pardon.
Upon completing his 12-year prison sentence in May 2019, rather than being released to his wife and children, he was immediately taken into custody by ICE. He spent nearly a year in the privately-run Mesa Verde immigration detention center in Bakersfield, California, until he was released in April 2020 as part of a lawsuit against ICE for its inability to protect medically-vulnerable detainees at high risk of contracting the coronavirus. Mr. Joseph suffers from asthma, and was granted release by a federal judge, but was ordered to wear an electronic ankle monitor while he awaits deportation.
Prior to his conviction, Mr. Joseph was a legal permanent resident, but immigration judges are prevented from granting him discretionary relief because of his past conviction even though he is completely rehabilitated. This is why a large community of supporters – including several faith groups and immigrant rights organizations – are asking Governor Newsom to pardon him. A pardon will allow him to remain in the U.S. with his wife and children – who are all U.S. citizens – and protect him from the political violence he could face if forced to return to Fiji.
“I have known Charles and his family for over a year, and have witnessed his leadership through his advocacy, musical talents, and spiritual gifts, which he shares abundantly with many others,” said Reverend Deborah Lee, Executive Director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “Charles has used his story to illuminate how the U.S. criminal justice and immigration systems have harmed immigrant communities, and that through the power of transformation and redemption we will all be restored.”
“Judaism, like all faiths, believes in redemption,” said Rabbi Mona Alfi of Congregation B’nai Israel, a Sanctuary Synagogue in Sacramento. “Charles has atoned for his wrongdoing. I believe that people are capable of learning from their past and becoming better human beings because of the struggles they have gone through. That’s exactly what Charles has done. Now more than ever is the time for action. All of us have to raise our voices and call out to the Governor and demand a pardon for Charles Joseph.”
“It was really hard when my dad was taken away from us. It caused a lot of stress for me, my mom, and younger sister. My dad is home with us now, and we need him with us,” said Hope Joseph, the 13-year-old daughter of Charles Joseph.
“I’m overwhelmed and filled with deep appreciation for this support,” said Charles Joseph, upon learning of the vote. “I’m thankful for the leadership of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and for their work to keep families together. I am looking forward to meeting with the Sacramento City Council members in my community, continuing to share my story, and gaining their support.”
To learn more about the campaign to support Charles Joseph, please see this short film.