Stories of Transformation: Vietnamese Refugee Tin Nguyen’s Pardon Campaign Sheds Light on Reformation

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In the heart of Pomona, California, an incredible story of transformation and resilience has embraced the spotlight. Amidst all the struggle and adversity, the tale of Tin Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee is unifying an entire community for a humble purpose– a second chance. Tin Nguyen is the Immigrant Justice Coordinator at VietRISE and a community pillar who has been battling the looming specter of deportation for quite some time now. The thought of separation from his family, home, and community is moving him to tears. He is pleading for sympathy to live a sober life at the only place he has known as home for decades now.

Migrating from Vietnam with his family during the early 1980s, Tin had to face the brutality of racial prejudice and bullying as a child.  Even his home was not a comforting place to find solace because of his abusive father. Struggling to adapt to the new life in America, Tin’s father turned abusive which eventually led him to the streets in search of love and compassion. Like most Southeast Asian refugee youth of the time, Tim unwittingly joined a gang that promised the safety and compassion he was craving for. What followed was a life down a dark road of drugs, crime, and violence.

In 1996 Tin’s life turned upside down with a fateful decision that cost the life of an innocent man in a robbery. This tragic incident changed the course of his life forever, no matter how much he regretted and still regrets that decision. Consequently, he was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) but even in the confines of the prison, Tin’s spirit remained unbroken. During his 22 years of incarceration, Tin managed to secure a commutation from Governor Brown, transforming his LWOP sentence into a hope of a new beginning in his life. This second chance in life is now dependent on the success of a campaign seeking a #Pardon4Tin from Governor Newsom.

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The Pardon Campaign has transformed into a chorus of voices demanding justice for Tin and preventing his deportation to a land he barely remembers. The campaign has now transcended borders, advocating for family reunion, redemption, and a second chance for Tin. Community members, activists, and groups across the nation are pouring their letters of support for this campaign to let Tin live with his family which includes his 83-year-old mother, his loved ones, and his community.

After two decades behind bars and a grueling 10 months in ICE detention, Tin finally breathed freedom on September 28, 2020. During his initial parole months, Tin was actively involved in Transitional Housing, supported Paws for Life through K9 Rescue, and participated in COVID-19 vaccination awareness at Cal State LA. In 2023, he graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors in Business Administration from Cal State LA, a reflection of his unconquerable desire to live sober. Tin settled into an Orange County home and started working as a consultant at Cal State LA’s Center of Engagement of Public Good and Service. He even continued to contribute toward animal welfare by launching a dog boarding and training business, in collaboration with It’s Yogi House Zeppre Rescue, and others.

Amidst all the engagements in his new life, Tin continued his higher studies and obtained an MBA degree this year from Cal State LA. His new life now has a purpose that thrives on the support of Cal State LA, VietRISE, Orange County Justice Fund, and the love of his family and community. However, Tin’s biggest challenge, the threat of deportation still looms large in his life. He is fighting every day for his freedom to remain united with his family and community. Tin is working tirelessly to give back while guiding others on the path of redemption. Describing his situation, Tin shares, “My deportation would not only separate me from my loved ones but also disrupt the stability and well-being of my family. It is crucial to understand the importance of family unity and the emotional, social, and economic support that it provides.”

Tin’s past might be turbulent but his future is promising. He aspires to guide other immigrants who are released from imprisonment, to reintegrate successfully into society. He yearns for a pardon from Governor Newsom, not only to not accomplish his future goals but also to continue giving back to his community.  Tin Nguyen’s Pardon Campaign represents the power of redemption and transformation with a profound message that every individual deserves a second chance in life.

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