ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG TO DEFEND CONNECTICUT'S PARDON SYSTEM, IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS AT ORAL ARGUMENT BEFORE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT
Richard Thompson Facing Deportation Despite "Full, Complete, Absolute, and Unconditional" Pardon by Connecticut's Board of Pardons and Paroles
Attorney General William Tong will defend the legitimacy of Connecticut's pardon process in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston tomorrow.
The case, Thompson v. Barr, centers on Richard Marvin Thompson, who came to the United States from Jamaica in 1997 at the age of 14 to live with his U.S. citizen father. In 2001, Mr. Thompson was convicted of second-degree assault – an offense for which he later received a "full, complete, absolute, and unconditional" pardon from Connecticut's Board of Pardons and Paroles. Elsewhere in the country, that unconditional pardon would be enough to protect Mr. Thompson from deportation under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act's "Pardon Waive Clause." But federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has singled out Connecticut residents for harsher treatment – arguing, incorrectly, that Mr. Thompson must be deported merely because Connecticut's pardons are issued by the governor-appointed Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than directly by the governor.
Connecticut's pardon system is the same as those in five other states – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. The BIA accepts pardons from Alabama and Georgia as satisfying the Pardon Waiver Clause, and has previously accepted a Connecticut pardon, but provides no explanation as to why Connecticut’s pardons no longer count.
On April 4, Attorney General William Tong filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit seeking to reverse the deportation order for Mr. Thompson. Now, he will personally appear in that Court 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," said Attorney General Tong. "Our pardons process has been in place since the 1880s. The federal government cannot single out Connecticut's best-practices 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."
The brief argues that "the State of Connecticut has a vital interest in this case, which directly impacts the State’s sovereign power to issue pardons for the commission of crimes; the State's authority, protected by the Tenth Amendment and by the constitutional principle of equal sovereignty, to determine the manner in which it will structure and exercise its sovereign pardoning power; and State residents' Fifth Amendment right to have the federal government honor Connecticut's full and unconditional pardons to the same extent that it honors functionally-identical pardons issued by other states."
This case marks the first federal appellate court arguments on this issue. The federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals is also considering this issue in the matter of In re Wayzaro Walton, No. 19-789.
Because Thompson remains held on an immigration detainer pending the results of his appeal, the First Circuit is expected to rule on the case by the fall.