A Bay Area immigrant fighting deportation after spending more than two decades in prison for a robbery conviction was among dozens of people granted pardons by Gov. Jerry Brown on Easter Sunday.
Eddy Zheng, of Oakland, was 16 in 1986 when he and two other teens staged an armed takeover of the home of a Chinatown family, tying up the children and their father, and forcing the mother to accompany them to the family store for a robbery, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zheng was convicted of burglary, kidnapping, assault and other crimes and served 21 years in prison with five years parole. He completed his sentence five years ago.
Zheng now works at the Community Youth Center of San Francisco and has been appointed to a number of San Francisco commissions and councils, including the San Francisco Reentry Council, according to the pardon issued Sunday by Brown.
He has fought deportation to China after his release, gaining support from many community leaders. The last time he was in China was more than three decades ago.
The governor noted that Zheng had conducted more than 200 presentations and workshops against violence at public schools and other public events, writing that since his release, Zheng had "lived an honest and upright life" and "exhibited good moral character."
"I feel the governor's pardon only validates the transformation and the rehabilitation that I've done," Zheng said in an interview with The Times on Sunday. "It doesn’t diminish the crime that I committed. And it doesn’t minimize the suffering for the victims. That’s why everything I do, since I was inside, when I made a decision to change my life, is always about paying it forward."
Zheng was unsure as of Sunday afternoon how the pardon would affect his ongoing deportation case, saying he needed to consult with his immigration attorney.
Four years ago, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals told immigration judges that they needed to consider Zheng's work with youth before deciding whether to expel him from the country. But the immigration case remains unresolved.
"It's always in the back of my mind," Zheng said.
When asked about whether the pardon might resolve the deportation case against Zheng, Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email, “That’s an issue the courts will resolve.”
Zheng was among 83 people who were pardoned on Easter Sunday, the bulk of whom had committed drug-related offenses. The governor's office said all of the people pardoned had been out of prison and not convicted of any new crimes for at least a decade.
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