Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 6:35 p.m.
By Christian Spencer, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — Facing deportation, Wayzaro Walton is on a quest to stay with her family in Hartford.
Walton on Monday received a reprieve. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered a stay of deportation for her while the federal Board of Immigration Appeals considers her case. However, federal officials said Walton will remain in a detention facility in Massachusetts.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Walton, 34, is a convicted felon. So on a routine visit to check in with a private agency that works with ICE, officials arrested her on March 26 and transported her to detention.
According to ICE, the British-born immigrant was convicted of third-degree larceny and had several misdemeanor charges for shoplifting. After a judge in 2012 deemed Walton deportable, ICE moved in.
Advocates for Walton said ICE officials made the wrong move. That’s because Walton was pardoned for her past crimes on January 15. And according to a pardon waiver clause, an immigration statue, if she had a full pardon, her past conviction should no longer be used against her as they were used in her 2012 immigration case.
And there are other factors at play, said Erin O’Neil Baker, Walton’s attorney.
“We’ve been trying to reopen that case about her deportation, arguing that her crimes are not deportable crimes,” Baker said.
Walton’s is one of hundreds of individuals in Connecticut who have been detained by ICE officials. Since 2017, 436 people in Connecticut have been detained, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Nationally, the fiscal year of 2018 was considered a successful year that aligned with President Donald Trump’s agenda for stricter border control and deportation of undocumented or unlawful immigrants, according to ICE and Enforcement and Removal Operations. There were 158,581 arrests in 2018, the greatest number of arrests over the last two fiscal years, according to an ERO report.
Since January 2017 when Trump issued his executive order to “enhance public safety,” detention facility bookings nationwide have increased more than 22 percent.
In 2017, there were 4,019 immigration cases pending in Hartford, according to the U.S. Department of Justice report.
Walton is a legal resident, who is married to an American citizen, Tamika Ferguson. They both have a 15-year-old daughter. Nevertheless, ICE arrested Walton the night before her state pardon for felony larceny and other misdemeanors became effective.
Since Walton’s arrest, her wife has been talking to her by phone every day.
“She’s just ready to come home. She misses her daughter,” Ferguson said after wiping away tears in the aftermath of a press conference on Tuesday. “She’s just ready to be home.”
Last month, supporters rallied before the federal building in Hartford to help reunite Walton with her family. Consequently, they started a MoveOn.org petition to help keep Walton in Hartford with her family.
Hartford Deportation Defense’s community organizer Constanza Segovia said Walton’s pardon should have prevented her from being detained.
“ICE refuses to accept [Walton’s pardon]. And it’s not recognizing the power of pardon in Connecticut because of the process,” Segovia said.
At issue is a legal question that involves the state’s sovereignty. That’s why Attorney General William Tong has intervened. He recently filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit Court arguing that the parole board should be viewed as a part of the state’s executive branch. And ICE should have recognized the pardon.
“We needed to step in to make clear that when we pardon someone, they are cleared. It should be recognized. ” Tong said. “The federal government needs to respect the sovereignty of Connecticut.”
The pardon process in Connecticut is different than other states in which a governor grants pardon. In Connecticut, a Parole Board approves pardons. Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking for Walton’s pardon to be recognized.
“I’m grateful to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for recognizing the gravity of Wayzaro’s case and granting her a temporary stay of deportation. But this fight is far from over. We need to fight for permanent relief for Wayzaro,” Tong said. “This is another example of how the Trump Administration has separated children from their parents, and it doesn’t just happen at the border.”
Tong said he visited the border. And the country needs to have an honest discussion about immigration.
“The separation of children from their parents is not just happening at the border,” Tong said. “It’s happening here in Connecticut.”