An Inmate Firefighter Might Be Deported After California Handed Him Over to ICE
Time is ticking for a California inmate facing deportation despite his service battling the state’s wildfires this year.
Last week, The Guardian reported Bounchan Keola’s story, which began with him fleeing Laos—a country he does not remember—with his family at a young age. Currently 39 and a legal resident of the U.S., Keola was sent to prison during his teens after being convicted of second-degree attempted murder in a gang-related shooting. Though Keola’s actions as a teenager were devastating, he’s acknowledged the pain he caused and has spent his time behind bars trying to reform.
Keola found his chance to give back to his community this year when California was ravaged by deadly fires: He was trained to be an inmate firefighter. But while fighting the Zogg Fire in early October, Keola was suddenly injured by a falling tree. He suffered a traumatic neck injury, which required him to be airlifted to a hospital.
With only a few weeks left on his sentence, Keola believed that he’d remain in the hospital until his release date. Instead, he was given a neck brace, returned to prison, and placed in isolation.
Then the state turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Earlier this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that would allow inmates who served as firefighters a chance to become professional firefighters after completing their sentences. This was done after years of criticism about the state’s licensing law, which barred
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