In the first eight months of her term, Gov. Janet Mills pardoned two men who faced immigration consequences because of criminal convictions.

The Democratic governor has not discussed those pardons publicly, and her office said she does not base those decisions on the threat of deportation. But she signed them as her counterparts in other states have used their pardon power to counter President Trump’s immigration policies and, in one case, she reversed the decision of her Republican predecessor.

Petitions for executive clemency go to the Maine Department of Corrections and then the Executive Clemency Board. That board decides whether to grant a public hearing on a petition. The governor receives a recommendation from the board and makes the final decision.

The state does not release information about people whose petitions are pending or denied, so it is not clear if Mills is still considering or has rejected pardons for others who are facing immigration consequences. The governor’s office provided the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram with the signed pardon warrants for four people, but other documents in their cases are private.

One of the people who received a pardon was Sakariye Hersi of Lewiston. Robert Levine, the attorney who represented Hersi during the pardon process, confirmed he had been at risk of deportation. Hersi declined an interview request through his lawyer.

Levine said his client’s family came to the United States from Somalia. He was a teenager when his brother died, and Levine said Hersi struggled with the trauma. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to unlawful use of a license or ID card, which is a Class E misdemeanor. His penalty was a $100 fine. He then pleaded guilty the following year to unlawful trafficking of cocaine, which is a Class B felony. He was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but six months suspended.

Levine said Hersi was not a citizen, and a judge ordered him removed. But deportations to Somalia have traditionally been rare, and immigration officials allowed Hersi to remain in the United States and regularly check in with the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. He got married and had children, and he works a good job to support them. His attorney said he worried Hersi could be deported eventually and separated from his family.

Levine said Hersi told the pardon board he blamed no one but himself for his actions as a younger man.

“It was really a true moment of acceptance of responsibility, and exactly what the pardon board wanted to hear from somebody who wanted to reform his life,” Levine said.

Mills signed the pardon July 25.

Another person granted a pardon this year was Lexius Saint Martin of Waterville, who was deported to Haiti last year. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison, with all but seven months suspended. He came to the United States as a refugee and had permanent legal status at the time of his plea. A judge issued a final order of removal, but an earthquake prevented his deportation. He married, started a cleaning business and had children. His wife was pregnant when he was detained last year, and a crowd of supporters rallied in Waterville.

But former Maine Gov. Paul LePage denied his petition for a pardon.

“My problem with this case was he had nearly 10 years to address the pardon and his immigration issues,” LePage wrote in a text message to a Morning Sentinel reporter at the time. “He completely ignored our laws until they caught up with him. Where was his support system during this time? Why was he not thinking of his family and what if – he got deported!!!!!!”

A person whose petition was denied can reapply after one year. A spokeswoman for Mills said she reconsidered his case and granted the pardon Aug. 29. Her office did not say more about why she decided to do so.

Saint Martin’s wife declined an interview request with a Morning Sentinel reporter when the news of the pardon spread, saying she needed to start filling out necessary immigration paperwork. The governor’s decision does not guarantee his return but could be a factor in his case.

The news about Saint Martin reached Melissa Pheng, who was in Cambodia visiting her husband. Chamroeun Pheng was deported in July because of a 2001 conviction for aggravated assault. Melissa Pheng, who lives in North Yarmouth, was already collecting letters of support and other documents for her husband’s own petition for executive clemency.

The governor’s office said it has provided a member of the Pheng family with the necessary paperwork, but it declined to comment on anticipated or pending petitions. Melissa Pheng returned to Maine earlier this month feeling buoyed by the other cases and said she would submit the documents to the state soon.

“That gave me a lot of hope,” she said.

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