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Federal settlement affirms the legitimacy of Connecticut's state pardon system

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong
Office of Connecticut Attorney General William Tong

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will recognize pardons from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

In Connecticut, pardons are granted by the board and not the governor. Tong sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in 2019 to ensure state pardons are protected under federal law.

The lawsuit was in response to when immigration authorities sought to deport noncitizens that had been granted pardons by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Tong argued that the federal government violated Connecticut's rights under the Tenth Amendment.

In a statement released, Tong said the settlement will recognize pardons granted by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles in cases involving noncitizens.

“This agreement affirms, with full force of law, what we have known to be true for well over a century — Connecticut’s pardons are legitimate and lawful,” Tong said. “There was no reason for the federal government ever to single out Connecticut and deny our residents the second chance we chose to grant to them. ”

In 2019, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers detained a British citizen and permanent U.S. resident Wayzaro Walton. Officers argued that Walton could be deported due to a previous conviction because Connecticut’s pardons are granted by governor-appointed officials, not the governor directly.

Governor Ned Lamont advocated for the release of Walton from federal detention. On Friday, Lamont released a statement regarding Tong’s announcement in support of the agreement.

“Just like in any other state, any individual who has received a pardon in Connecticut should have the opportunity to work here and contribute positively to their communities,” Lamont said.

Jeniece Roman is WSHU's Report for America corps member who writes about Indigenous communities in Southern New England and Long Island, New York.