CONNECTICUT SUES FEDERAL IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT LEGITIMACY OF CONNECTICUT PARDONS
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong announced today that the State of Connecticut has sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeking a declaratory judgment that the federal government must honor and respect Connecticut's pardons as sufficient to waive deportation under the Pardon Waiver Clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The lawsuit explains that federal agencies have singled-out Connecticut for unfair and prejudicial treatment by refusing to recognize our pardons.
"Today, we filed suit against federal immigration officials seeking a declaratory judgment that Connecticut's pardons are indeed executive pardons under federal law. Such a judgment could force the federal government to recognize Connecticut's pardons and reverse their flawed and discriminatory policies that have subjected our residents to the threat of cruel and needless deportation. Connecticut's pardons have long been recognized and respected. It is unlawful for the federal government to suddenly strip Connecticut residents of the benefits of the second chance that our state has chosen to grant them and that they are entitled to under federal law," said Attorney General Tong.
The Pardon Waiver Clause of the INA provides critical protection against removal for pardoned noncitizens. Since the passage of the INA in 1952, the federal government had consistently respected and honored Connecticut pardons and had given Connecticut residents the same rights as all other residents under the Pardon Waiver Clause. That changed in 2018 when immigration authorities broke from past settled practiced and reversed themselves, suddenly refusing to recognize Connecticut's pardons based on an illogical and unsupported reading of Connecticut's pardon process.
Federal authorities have now singled out Connecticut residents for harsher treatment merely because our pardons are issued by the governor-appointed Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than directly by the governor.
Connecticut's pardon system is virtually identical to those in five other states – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. The Board of Immigration Appeals accepts pardons from Alabama and Georgia as satisfying the Pardon Waiver Clause, and before this recent reversal has even previously accepted a Connecticut pardon.
By disregarding Connecticut's pardons, the lawsuit argues, the federal government has violated Connecticut's rights under the Tenth Amendment and the constitutional principle of equal sovereignty, as well as Administrative Procedure Act prohibitions against federal agency actions that are arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.
Attorney General Tong personally defended the legitimacy of Connecticut's pardon process before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Walton v. Barr on September 3. Last month, the Second Circuit dismissed the appeal in Walton v. Barr and vacated a previously issued temporary stay of removal, meaning Wayzaro Walton now faces the possibility of imminent deportation. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal finding they lacked jurisdiction, and no federal court has yet ruled on the merits of the serious question that were raised -- whether ICE can disregard and disrespect the effect of Connecticut pardons.
He delivered oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston in Thompson v. Barr on July 23. The First Circuit is expected to rule on that case in that case later this fall.