The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – An LGBTQ man who faces deportation by ICE to Fiji where he faces discrimination and persecution as a queer man should be pardoned by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday in a unanimously passed resolution.
Salesh (“Sal”) Prasad – who supporters note became a prison activist – is represented in his deportation case by the Immigration Unit of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
According to the PD Office, CA state prison officials in August of 2021 “unnecessarily transferred Mr. Prasad directly into ICE custody on the day he should have been released from prison after transforming his life and earning parole. A pardon would prevent his deportation to Fiji, a country he left at age six.”
“I am proud to have authored this resolution urging Governor Newsom, a former Mayor of San Francisco, to pardon Salesh Prasad. Sal is a beloved LGBTQ community member who has served almost three decades in prison. He demonstrated his rehabilitation and earned release, and should not be subjected to the inhumane double punishment of deportation,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who introduced the resolution, co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston and Rafael Mandelman.
“I’m honored to represent Sal, a beloved brother, uncle, nephew, and artist who has dedicated himself to rehabilitation and helping others,” said Maddie Boyd, Mr. Prasad’s attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
The PD Office noted Prasad, 50, “experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse as a child, and the trauma pushed him to numb himself with alcohol and narcotics and seek protection from gang members. At age 22, he took another person’s life during an argument, a crime for which he served 27 years in prison and is incredibly remorseful.”
Prasad did well in prison, claim supporters, noting he “found healing through therapy, art, and helping others,” and led Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, and practiced non-violence and de-escalation among his peers.
Prasad was an activist in prison, too, said the PD Office, citing he outspoken work to expose working conditions and safety issues on behalf of detained workers. He also reportedly fought to ensure COVID-19 boosters for fellow ICE detainees.
“He has become an activist and advocate for California legislation such as the Mandela Act, to further limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, and the VISION Act (AB 937) to prevent transfers from jails and prisons to ICE,” said the PD Office.
“Sal is a freedom fighter and an artist, who generously shares his gifts with others around him. His spiritual path of redemption is a model for all of us,” said Reverend Deborah Lee, Executive Director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “Sal has the support and love of his community, including the faith community here in San Francisco, and should be released.”
“Sal has taken some of the darkest moments of his life and has turned them into positive gifts to the community,” said Edwin Carmona-Cruz, Community Engagement Director at the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice.
Carmona-Cruz added, “When his mother passed due to COVID-19, Sal fiercely advocated for individuals in ICE custody to have vaccine access. His efforts, quite literally, saved so many lives. I am in awe of his leadership and I hope he can continue to share his light with so many people.”
“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the positive influence of my uncle Sal,” said Amitesh Diyal, Prasad’s nephew.
“Sal was the only real father figure I had growing up. Sal draws beautiful custom cards, and he would send me them all the time from prison. I can’t count the times I heard the words ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m proud of you’ from my uncle. My children speak to him regularly—he adores them and they adore him. I want Sal to be released so they can finally get to meet their beloved great-uncle,” Diyal added.
“I am humbled and speechless from this overwhelming support,” said Prasad. “Thank you to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from the bottom of my heart for their faith in me. I only hope to have the chance to show that healing and rehabilitation are always possible, and to continue giving back with love.”