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Despite A Full State Pardon, Another Connecticut Immigrant Remains Behind Bars

Courtesy: Thompson Family
Richard Marvin Thompson is seen here with his daughter, Yalani, while he was out of ICE detention on bond in 2015.

State officials and immigration attorneys in Connecticut are welcoming a ruling last week by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals that clarifies its position on the state’s pardon power. The BIA says it will now honor Connecticut’s pardons. That means Hartford resident Wayzaro Walton will be able to regain her legal status and avoid deportation from the U.S. 

But another state resident, a Bridgeport man, remains behind bars, despite also being pardoned by Connecticut for a crime he committed more than 15 years ago.

Richard Marvin Thompson was brought to Connecticut from Jamaica by his father, a naturalized U.S. citizen.  He was 14 at the time, and he lived here legally as a permanent resident. When he was 18, he got into a fight and was convicted of second-degree assault. 

Eleven years later, immigration authorities decided to deport Thompson, arguing he’d forfeited his legal status based on the crime he committed as a teenager.   

Thompson, 36, has been in immigration detention for the majority of the past seven years. In 2017, he was granted a full, absolute and unconditional pardon by the state of Connecticut.  

He spoke with Connecticut Public Radio last week from the Etowah County jail in Alabama, where he and hundreds of other immigrants are incarcerated. Here are highlights from the conversation.

On the ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals 

I was surprised. Actually I was shocked. Because when I finally got a pardon, the same as Miss Walton did, I thought that was it. I would have a waiver to deportation. But I guess they decided not to honor the pardon. But for that to happen is more of an optimistic thing for me.

On conditions in the Etowah County Detention Center

It’s horrible here. As you know, Alabama is one of the poorest states in America. The food that they give us sometimes is outdated. Sometimes the tray that they give us the food on is dirty. They don’t give us enough soap. We’re supposed to get tissue on a regular basis, but they don’t even have the resources to provide us with the simple things that we need for hygiene. We have little access to the library. It’s kind of difficult.

On the family impact of detention 

My daughter is 7 and my son is 2. And to this day currently, my son, he doesn’t know me personally. He just knows me as a voice -- as Dad, on the phone.

On his goals if he’s released

I’m truck driver. I’m a Class A CDL driver for over 11 years. But you know, I took a little interest in legal work.  So my intention is maybe to help people who are currently going through this situation. 

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