AG Tong Announces Settlement to Affirm Legitimacy of Connecticut Pardons
Attorney General Tong announces settlement with U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office to affirm legitimacy of Connecticut pardons
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut stating that the Department of Homeland Security will recognize full and unconditional pardons granted by the Connecticut Board of Pardons. and parole as a waiver of deportation, based on a conviction in Connecticut, under the waiver of pardon clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The agreement also provides that the Department of State will recognize these pardons as executive pardons for purposes of visa eligibility in the case of non-nationals applying for visas. Attorney General Tong sued the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in 2019 for a declaratory judgment that Connecticut’s pardons are indeed executive pardons under federal law.
“This agreement affirms, with the full force of law, what we have known to be true for more than a century: Connecticut pardons are legitimate and legal. There was no reason for the federal government to point the finger at Connecticut and deny our residents the second chance we chose to give them. I thank the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for working with us to bring about today’s positive resolution,” said Attorney General Tong.
“Members of the Pardons and Parole Board are thrilled to hear of this favorable resolution and are extremely grateful to Attorney General Tong and his staff for all of their hard work. This decision respectfully acknowledges the power of a pardon issued by the Commission at the federal level and will provide continued relief to those affected by this decision as well as opportunities for greater and more meaningful service to society.” said Carleton J. Giles, chairman of the Pardons and Parole Board.
The INA’s Pardon Waiver Clause provides essential protection against deportation for pardoned non-nationals. Since the passage of the INA in 1952, the federal government has always respected and honored Connecticut pardons and granted Connecticut residents the same rights as all other residents under the Pardon Waiver Clause. . That changed in 2018 when immigration authorities broke with past practices and suddenly began refusing to recognize Connecticut pardons based on an illogical and unsubstantiated reading of Connecticut’s pardon process. Federal authorities singled out Connecticut residents for harsher treatment simply because our pardons were issued by the Governor’s Appointed Pardons and Parole Board rather than directly by the Governor.
Connecticut’s pardon system is virtually identical to those of 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 prior to this recent reversal even once accepted a pardon from Connecticut.
The Connecticut lawsuit argued that the federal government violated Connecticut’s rights under the Tenth Amendment and the constitutional principle of equal sovereignty, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act’s prohibitions against the actions of federal agencies that are arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.
Attorney General Tong personally argued and defended the legitimacy of Connecticut’s pardon process before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and First Circuit in 2019. In both cases, the courts sided. of Connecticut, resulting in the release of detained Connecticut residents Wayzaro Walton and Richard Thompson.
Assistant Attorneys General Inez Diaz-Galloza and Lauren Bidra, Solicitor General Joshua Perry and former Solicitor General Clare Kindall assisted the Attorney General in the case.