© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Connecticut Resident Is On A New Road After ICE Detention

courtesy RM Thompson
Richard Marvin Thompson, with his children

Richard Marvin Thompson pulled his truck into a rest stop to take our phone call.

“I’m currently on the road. I’m working. I’m headed to make a delivery in Middletown, New York.”

The 37-year-old truck driver was released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in May of last year. He’d been locked up for almost three years despite a full state pardon for a crime he committed as a teenager. And it was not his first time behind bars. Thompson, who was previously incarcerated by ICE, has spent nearly eight years in prison.

I asked what it’s been like coming out into a pandemic with its own kind of lockdown culture.

“I guess you could say I’m used to it as far as the lockdown part of it,” Thompson said, chuckling. “But I have gained employment since I came out. I still have an issue with my driver’s license because, you know, I don’t have a green card.”

The process for getting his green card will take more time.

Thompson was brought legally from Jamaica to Connecticut by his father when he was 14. At 18, he got into a fight and was convicted of second-degree assault. Eleven years later, ICE decided to deport him. The state of Connecticut granted Thompson a “full, absolute and unconditional pardon” for the crime in 2017. But that was the same year ICE began detaining and trying to deport legal permanent residents in Connecticut who had been fully pardoned for their crimes.

Attorney General William Tong went to court in 2019 to defend the state’s pardon system, and Thompson was released amid the pandemic in 2020.

But federal policy toward Connecticut’s pardons appears not to have changed with the advent of the Biden administration. Now Connecticut wants a binding legal agreement with the feds that clearly protects the state’s right to decide how it pardons people.

“We couldn’t come to an agreement, and now we are reasserting those claims and continuing our litigation until we can finally put all of this to bed,” said Tong.

In new legal filings, Connecticut cites several additional cases of people who’ve been arrested and detained despite state pardons.

The federal government has argued that because Connecticut’s pardons come from a Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than directly from the governor, they aren’t valid. The Department of Homeland Security declined CT Public’s request for an interview, but it has posted a statement on its website that says it will honor Connecticut’s pardons for purposes of federal immigration law.

“And my response is, Thank you. I appreciate that. I appreciate your generosity,” said Tong. “Not good enough.”

Tong said there’s no indication that the feds will actually do what they say they will. He wants to be sure Connecticut’s law and sovereignty are respected. He’s calling for explicit recognition that what’s been going on is wrong.

Richard Marvin Thompson said this confusion is taking a real toll.

“Because it’s not fair for people like us,” he said. “And as I think about it, I get upset because it put me through a lot. It put me through a lot. Like the separation from home. The years I’ve missed out with my kids. You know, what I’m going through currently right now, even when I came home. You know, I’ve lost a lot,” he said.

After his release, Thompson returned to his fiancée and two children in Bridgeport. The whole family was affected by his time away in ICE detention, said Thompson -- especially as he faced deportation.

“What do you say to my fiancée when she knows that that’s what I’m facing, you know? The decisions that she would have to make.”

Talking about his experience is troubling, but he said he’ll speak out if it can help other immigrants from Connecticut “… just to make sure they don’t go through the same thing that I’ve been through.”

And with that, it was time to go back to work.

We said our goodbyes, Richard Marvin Thompson started up his truck and headed back out on the road.

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.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content