Supporters ask Gov. Newsom to pardon queer man from being deported to Fiji

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to pardon a 50-year-old queer man from being deported to Fiji after he was released from prison and shown great remorse for committing second-degree murder.

Salesh ("Sal") Prasad, who is being represented in his deportation case by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, will likely be persecuted in his homeland because of his sexual orientation, the supervisors' resolution stated. 

"If I’m deported, I won’t survive. I won’t make it in Fji," he told The Guardian in June while speaking from an ICE facility in the Central Valley. "There’s no protection there for me. There’s no support. I’d be forced to be somebody I’m not. I don’t want to hide again. I should be able to love who I want to love."

MORE: California man who served 25 years poised to be deported to Cambodia

According to the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, Prasad was a victim of domestic violence and sexual abuse as a child, and the trauma pushed him to numb himself with alcohol and drugs and seek protection from gang members. 

At age 22, he killed a man during an argument, a crime for which he served 27 years in prison.

Last year, he was granted parole. The board members noted his transformation and his remorse. 

In prison, Prasad underwent therapy, led Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, and helped other, his lawyers said. 

He has also spoken out about work conditions and safety to Cal-OSHA 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 to prevent transfers from jails and prisons to ICE. 

"Sal is a beloved LGBTQ community member who has served almost three decades in prison," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who introduced the resolution passed this week, which was co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston and Rafael Mandelman. "He demonstrated his rehabilitation and earned release, and should not be subjected to the inhumane double punishment of deportation." 

Despite his release and his parole status, California state prison officials transferred Prasad into ICE custody in Aug. 19, 2021, on the day he should have been released from prison.

In September, his mother contracted Covid-19 and died; Ice declined to temporarily release him to say his goodbyes in her final days and refused to let him go to the funeral, The Guardian reported. 

Prasad’s lawyer has argued he should not be detained because state authorities deemed him safe for release, but ICE has argued his conviction for a violent crime makes him eligible for removal. 

The governor's pardon would prevent his deportation to Fiji, a country he left at age 6. 

A spokesperson from Newsom's office sent an email that stated pardon applications are confidential. 

However, in general, the statement said that the governor "regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system and all applications receive a thorough and careful review."