FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 13, 2022
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org | (628)249-7946
SF Supervisors Urge Governor Newsom to Pardon LGBTQ Man in ICE Custody
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution urging Governor Newsom to pardon Salesh (“Sal”) Prasad who is being represented in his deportation case by the Immigration Unit of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. In August 2021, California state prison officials unnecessarily transferred Mr. Prasad directly into ICE custody on the day he should have been released from prison after transforming his life and earning parole. A pardon would prevent his deportation to Fiji, a country he left at age six, where he stands to face discrimination and persecution as a queer man and an Indo-Fijian minority.
“I am proud to have authored this resolution urging Governor Newsom, a former Mayor of San Francisco, to pardon Salesh Prasad. Sal is a beloved LGBTQ community member who has served almost three decades in prison. He demonstrated his rehabilitation and earned release, and should not be subjected to the inhumane double punishment of deportation,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who introduced the resolution which was co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston and Rafael Mandelman.
“I’m honored to represent Sal, a beloved brother, uncle, nephew, and artist who has dedicated himself to rehabilitation and helping others,” said Maddie Boyd, Mr. Prasad’s attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
Mr. Prasad, now 50 years old, experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse as a child, and the trauma pushed him to numb himself with alcohol and narcotics and seek protection from gang members. At age 22, he took another person’s life during an argument, a crime for which he served 27 years in prison and is incredibly remorseful. While in prison, Mr. Prasad found healing through therapy, art, and helping others. He led Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, and practiced non-violence and de-escalation among his peers. He has also spoken out about work conditions and safety to CalOSHA on behalf of detained workers, and fought to ensure COVID-19 boosters for fellow ICE detainees. He has become an activist and advocate for California legislation such as the Mandela Act, to further limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, and the VISION Act (AB 937) to prevent transfers from jails and prisons to ICE.
Several organizations have pledged their support for Mr. Prasad, including faith groups and reentry agencies who are poised to help him transition back into the community where he hopes to counsel others who have survived the traumas of childhood abuse.
“Sal is a freedom fighter and an artist, who generously shares his gifts with others around him. His spiritual path of redemption is a model for all of us,” said Reverend Deborah Lee, Executive Director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “Sal has the support and love of his community, including the faith community here in San Francisco, and should be released.”
“Sal has taken some of the darkest moments of his life and has turned them into positive gifts to the community,” said Edwin Carmona-Cruz, Community Engagement Director at the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. “When his mother passed due to COVID-19, Sal fiercely advocated for individuals in ICE custody to have vaccine access. His efforts, quite literally, saved so many lives. I am in awe of his leadership and I hope he can continue to share his light with so many people.”
“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the positive influence of my uncle Sal,” said Amitesh Diyal, Mr. Prasad’s nephew. “Sal was the only real father figure I had growing up. Sal draws beautiful custom cards, and he would send me them all the time from prison. I can’t count the times I heard the words ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m proud of you’ from my uncle. My children speak to him regularly—he adores them and they adore him. I want Sal to be released so they can finally get to meet their beloved great-uncle.”
“I am humbled and speechless from this overwhelming support,” said Sal Prasad, learning of the passage of the resolution. “Thank you to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from the bottom of my heart for their faith in me. I only hope to have the chance to show that healing and rehabilitation are always possible, and to continue giving back with love.”