California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s determination to resist President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration is now so out of control that it threatens the safety of his Golden State constituents. Perhaps more importantly, his action last week in pardoning three more convicts is an abuse of his clemency power and sets a dangerous precedent.
Newsom’s virtually slavish devotion to the pro-illegal immigrant agenda is legendary. Long ago, while serving as mayor of San Francisco from 2004-2010, he supported so-called “sanctuary city” policies. As governor, he has pushed for expanding Medicaid to illegal immigrants between the ages of 19-25. And he has signed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to serve on California government boards and commissions, as well as legislation expanding California’s student loan program for so-called “Dreamers,” enlarging the current program to add illegal immigrants seeking graduate degrees at the University of California and California state schools.
But in his latest move, he’s now signing pardons for immigrants who have been convicted of committing felonies and served their sentences, solely as a means to prevent them from being picked up by agents of the federal government and then deported. He began by issuing several pardons in May and then continued, issuing more pardons this month.
That is an abuse of the governor’s power to pardon.
The California constitution gives the governor of the state the power to grant clemency by commutation or pardon. A commutation is used to reduce the sentence of a criminal still serving time, while “a pardon provides relief from punishment and restoration of certain civic rights for people who have already served their sentence,” according to the official web site of the governor’s office.
Interestingly, the California governor’s clemency power is not nearly as broad as is the president’s pardon power. For instance, anyone convicted of multiple felonies at the state level needs not just a pardon from the governor, but the consent of a majority of the state’s supreme court before he can receive a pardon — something former Gov. Jerry Brown learned the hard way when the state Supreme Court rejected 10 grants of clemency issued by Brown. That was the first time California’s high court had used its power to block a pardon or commutation in more than 50 years.
That same web site offers four reasons for the governor to exercise clemency: 1) “incentivize accountability and rehabilitation; 2) increase the safety of the people working and serving sentences in our jails and prisons; 3) increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry; and 4) correct unjust results in the legal system.”
An important note here: There is not a fifth reason for clemency listed on the web site that says, “avoid deportation by federal government,” just the four reasons listed above.
Looking at the convicts pardoned by Newsom, not a single one of the four reasons listed applies in any of the cases. Pardoning them would not “incentivize accountability and rehabilitation” any more than they’ve already been held accountable and rehabilitated. Since they’ve all served their sentences and are no longer incarcerated, pardoning them would not “increase the safety of the people working and serving sentences in our jails and prisons.” Since they’ve all been out for some time, and have had no troubles reentering society, there would be no “increase [to] public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry. And it not unjust to deport them for having committed felonies — that’s federal law, whether Newsom likes it or not — so the fourth reason for gubernatorial clemency doesn’t work, either.
Instead, Newsom is exercising his pardon power recklessly, not in the service of a legitimate judicial end, but in the pursuit of a political goal — to win the political support of the illegal immigrant community and the votes of the citizens who support them.
That’s wrong. If Newsom does not like the federal law that says immigrants to this country — legal immigrants — make themselves subject to deportation when they commit felonies, he is free to work to change that law. As the state’s highest-ranking and most powerful Democrat, he has many political tools he could deploy to help him persuade California’s Democrat-heavy congressional delegation to work on changing that law.
But he doesn’t have the right to ignore the law, or, worse, work to undermine the law by exploiting a clemency power he was given for other purposes. By abusing that power, he further chips away at the rule of law and sends dangerous signals that under his rule, following the law is not necessary.
That’s not a good example to set. Newsom should reverse himself and uphold the law.
Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.