State AG sues over refusal to honor state's pardon system

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's Attorney General William Tong filed a lawsuit Thursday against federal immigration enforcement agencies over the refusal to honor the state's pardon system as it relates to immigration.

According to the suit, Tong argued the agencies abandoned 66 years of practice by singling out Connecticut's governments, laws and residents for "deeply unequal and prejudicial treatment" by refusing to recognize state pardons given to immigrants who could potentially be deported for their offenses.

The defendants in the case are the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency and the Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others.

The lawsuit says immigrants who receive pardons relating to their prior crimes should be protected by a condition under a federal law and cannot be deported.

Tong said if a person is pardoned, it waives their deportation unless there is some other reason for that person to be deported.

Tong also added the sudden change goes against states' rights.

"To reverse course is completely unfair and unlawful," he said. "This is a direct affront to the 10th Amendment and to Connecticut sovereignty."

The Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles grants pardons with board members being appointed by the governor. Connecticut has used this system for more than 125 years.

Federal immigration officials contend a pardon needs to come from the governor or the president under a waiver program.

Messages were left seeking comment with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice, along with the regional U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency in Boston.

In July, Tong argued that federal immigration authorities have started the process to deport some state residents with past criminal records even though their crimes were pardoned by the state.

"No one has ever said that Georgia's pardon process doesn't work or that Alabama's pardon process doesn't work. In fact, 47 states have some process that includes a board of some kind," he said back in July. "It was news to us that Connecticut pardons suddenly don't count when for 60 years they clearly did count."


Chris Ehrmann is a corps member for Report for America , a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage, in a partnership with The Associated Press for Connecticut. The AP is solely responsible for all content.