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Connecticut Sues Federal Immigration Officials On Pardon Issue

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Wayzaro Walton (middle), 34, at a December 4 rally against her deportation. Walton is scheduled to be deported next week.

The state of Connecticut is suing the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies over a refusal to honor the state’s pardon system when it comes to immigration. 

In Connecticut, criminal pardons are granted by a board under the governor, rather than coming directly from the governor. Though the Immigration and Nationality Act says pardons must come from a governor or the president, federal immigration authorities have, in the past, honored pardons issued by boards from five other states with similar laws. 

In a lawsuit announced Friday, the state asked the court to force federal immigration officials to recognize Connecticut’s pardon power the same way it recognizes pardons from other states with similar laws.

Attorney General William Tong, who announced the lawsuit, said Connecticut is being singled out and treated differently by federal authorities.  

"Today, we filed suit against federal immigration officials seeking a declaratory judgment that Connecticut's pardons are indeed executive pardons under federal law,” Tong said in a news release. “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.”

Two legal permanent residents whose records have been cleared by the state are currently in detention.  

One of those, Wayzaro Walton, is set to be deported next week.

Walton is a British citizen, who is a permanent resident of the United States and has been living in the U.S. since she was a child. She is married to a United States citizen and has a young daughter, also a U.S. citizen. 

Federal immigration officials are seeking to deport Walton based on larceny convictions, despite the fact that she received a full pardon of those convictions from the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“The Department of Homeland Security is ignoring the validity of this very valid pardon,” said Erin O’Neil Baker, Walton’s lawyer.

Federal immigration officials have said they are just following the letter of the federal law.

This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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