By Jenna Lyons

President Trump was quick to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to pardon five former convicts facing deportation.

Brown pardoned 56 former convicts in his annual pre-Easter clemency program, but the president took aim at five who are threatened with the possibility of deportation. The pardons, while not guaranteeing that the men will remain in the United States, remove a legal rationale for expelling them.

Trump's criticism came in a Saturday morning tweet, in which he referred to the governor by a nickname from the 1970s, referring to Brown's idea for a state-owned communication satellite and other proposals deemed too liberal by critics.

"Governor Jerry 'Moonbeam' Brown pardoned 5 criminal illegal aliens whose crimes include (1) Kidnapping and Robbery (2) Badly beating wife and threatening a crime with intent to terrorize (3) Dealing drugs," the president tweeted. "Is this really what the great people of California want?"

The governor's office said the pardons were earned by the men for turning their lives around. They were announced Friday.

While not directly responding to Trump's criticism, Brown's office reiterated Saturday that "all of the individuals who were pardoned have been out of custody for at least 10 years and the majority were convicted of drug-related or other nonviolent crimes."

Trump's comments are just the latest in his dispute with California over immigration policy. Last month, the administration filed sued against the state over its sanctuary laws, which help protect undocumented immigrants from deportation by federal officials.

The pardoned men facing deportation include Daniel Maher, who committed an armed robbery at a San Jose auto parts store in 1994, and was convicted of felony kidnapping, robbery and firearms charges.

He lost his legal status but was not deported to China because a deportation agreement did not exist with country. Maher served five years in state prison and a year in federal immigration custody. He now works at the nonprofit Ecology Center in Berkeley and assists at-risk youth.

Sokha Chhan, another who was pardoned, fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia at 13, then lived as a legal U.S. resident for 35 years. He served a year in jail and three years probation in 2005 for a misdemeanor charge of inflicting corporal injury and threatening a crime.

Also pardoned were Sergio Mena, who completed three years' probation in 2006 for possessing drugs for sale; Francisco Acevedo Alaniz, who served five months in 1999 for vehicle theft; and Phann Pheach, who completed a six-month sentence in 2007 for possessing drugs for sale and obstructing an officer.

(c)2018 the San Francisco Chronicle