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Court: Officials wrong to reject pardon, order deportation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A federal appeals court has reversed a decision by immigration authorities to deport a Connecticut man because he was convicted of felony assault 19 years ago when he was 18, despite state officials having pardoned him.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the Bureau of Immigration Appeals was wrong to reject the validity of the pardon given in 2017 to Richard Marvin Thompson by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Federal immigration officials had contended a pardon needs to come from a governor or the president under a waiver program.

State Attorney General William Tong has a pending lawsuit against the federal departments of Homeland Security and State for refusing to acknowledge Connecticut pardons. He said the federal government in the past few years reversed its long standing practice of accepting the state’s pardons.

The appeals court sent the case back to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals with instructions to follow its own long-standing policies of recognizing state pardons.

Thompson, of Bridgeport, is being detained in Alabama. He came to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1997 when he was 14 to live with his father, who is a U.S. citizen. He was convicted of second-degree assault in 2001. Despite the pardon, immigration officials moved to deport him and Thompson appealed to the Immigration Appeals Bureau, which ruled against him.

Immigration officials referred questions to the Department of Justice. A message seeking comment was sent to the Justice Department on Friday.

Thompson’s case is similar to the one of Wayzaro Walton, an English woman living in Hartford who was fully pardoned for larceny charges but ordered deported by immigration officials. In December, the Board of Immigration Appeals stopped the deportation proceedings, saying her state pardon was valid.

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