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Criminal Justice

Activists Seek Release Of Immigrant Detained After Governor Commuted His Sentence

A bearded man in a t-shirt and glasses smiles as he holds up a crocheted black-and-white cap with two hearts on the side.
Enrique Cristobal's lawyer says he taught himself how to crochet in prison and is now teaching others in the ICE facility in Kern County.
(Courtest Cristobal family)
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Immigrant rights activists are calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release a man whose sentence for attempted murder was commuted by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Enrique Cristobal, now 38, was released in Nov. 2020 after serving 17 years in state prison, only to be immediately detained by immigration agents because he came to the U.S. illegally with his parents when he was 14.

Having your sentence commuted doesn’t protect you from deportation.

But Cal Soto of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said a new Biden Administration policy states that low-risk people should be a low priority for detention.

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"Enrique already has the stamp of approval from the governor of the state of California saying he is no risk to the community," he said.

Jessica Yamane, one of Cristobal's lawyers, said ICE should release him and let him stay in the country because "the legal standard is whether he is a current threat to the community."

She said her client got a drug and alcohol counseling degree behind bars, and the governor recognized that Cristobal had a very positive impact on others in prison.

"Grown men, who are very hardened, would break down and cry," she said. "He is able to reach people."

ICE sent us a statement Friday calling Cristobal a "public safety threat." It said an immigration judge in Van Nuys denied his request for release on bond last July on the grounds that he was "a danger to the community and a flight risk."

Cristobal is being held in a privately-run ICE facility in Kern County and currently has COVID-19, Yamane said. He currently has a deportation hearing scheduled for Friday, she said, but it's unclear if it will happen because he's in quarantine.

Cristobal also has "severe asthma" and has developed a "hacking cough which has led to inflammation of his lungs," according to Yamane.

"We want him to be immediately released to continue to fight his case at home with his family and to get the medical treatment that he desperately needs," Yamane said, noting that Cristobal's mother, brother, sister and numerous nieces and nephews live in L.A.

In its statement, ICE confirmed that Cristobal tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 26, and asserted that he "refused to have his vital signs read on five different days after being diagnosed." The agency said Cristobal "agreed to receive medical treatment Feb. 8 for a frequent cough and remains under medical care."

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