Attorney General Tong defends Connecticut’s immigration pardon system


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Attorney General William Tong defended the legitimacy of Connecticut’s pardon process in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston on Tuesday, July 23rd.

A case, Thompson v. Barr, was referenced as the example of an unconditional pardon which was granted by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2001. This pardon was attempted to be overturned by Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in which the defendant now faces deportation, even though the “full, complete, absolute, and unconditional” pardon for the offense was officially granted.

Attorney General Tong is now questioning why Connecticut’s residents are being singled out for harsher treatment by the federal government, simply because Connecticut’s pardons are issued by the governor-appointed Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than directly by the governor.

In 2001, a Jamaican man, Richard Marvin Thompson, who came to the United States in 1997 at the age of 14 to live with his U.S. citizen father, was convicted of a second-degree assault. The offense was pardoned, however, now Thompson remains held on an immigration detainer pending the results of his appeal.

On April 4, 2019 Tong filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit seeking to reverse the deportation order for Thompson.

Connecticut’s pardon system is the same as five other states: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. The Board of Immigration Appeals has accepted pardons from Alabama and Georgia, and has previously accepted a Connecticut pardon, but now provides no explanation as to why the pardons no longer count.

An unconditional pardon would be enough to protect an individual from deportation under the federal immigration and Nationality Act’s “Pardon Waive Clause”.

Attorney General Tong personally appeared to argue in support of Connecticut laws and Connecticut residents:

“This case is about second chances, equal protection of law, and Connecticut’s sovereign right to be treated equally with other states and to structure its own system of government. Our pardons process has been in place since the 1880s.

The federal government can not single out Connecticut’s best-practice pardon system, which clearly meets the requirements for recognition under the BIA’s own criteria and prior rulings. It cannot deny our residents a second chance that Congress gave by allowing waivers when a person has received a full pardon.”

– Connecticut Attorney General William Tong

This case marks the first federal appellate court arguements on this issue. The Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals is also considering this issue in the matter of In re Wayzardo Walton, No. 19-789.

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