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State Halts In-person Classes For Now


Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — As more Connecticut school districts announced plans to halt in-person education until January, Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday acknowledged COVID-19 cases are rising in schools, but said the state aims to keep in-person education going “as long as we can.”

Lamont said local officials can “make their own mind up,” and the state does not plan on stepping in with mandated closures like it did in the spring.

“I think the schools have handled this very well. Every situation is a little bit different,” he said, noting he felt it was appropriate to have older students learning in a hybrid model of online and in-person learning, and younger students learning more in their classrooms.

“When I look at K-12, I think the high schools are more at risk than perhaps the youngest grades,” Lamont said.

Still, Lamont warned of the negative impacts online-only classes may have on children.

“There’s a real trade-off. A lot of these kids are greatly disadvantaged, not just in terms of education, but also social and emotional, being isolated for that long period of time,” Lamont said. “I think Connecticut did well having the majority of our schools open as long as we have.”

The state Thursday reported 675 new COVID-19 cases among students over the past week, 178 more than the week prior. There were 328 new staff cases, 91 more than the previous week.

Of the new cases reported among students, 231 children were attending class in person five days a week, 322 had a hybrid of online and in-person classes and 115 were learning entirely online. More than half of Connecticut school districts are operating fully in person, while about 38 percent are hybrid and about 9 percent are fully remote.

Ansonia Public Schools said they will suspend in-person classes through Jan. 18, becoming the second district in Connecticut to shift to online-only classes for the remainder of the year as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the state.

New Haven’s public schools began the year entirely online and postponed plans to return to some in-person classes as cases began to rise this fall.

But Ansonia Superintendent of Schools Joseph DiBacco wrote in a letter to families Thursday that the city, based on state data, had seen an average of 27.1 new cases per day per 100,000 residents from Oct. 18-31.

“While this number is concerning by itself, what is more concerning is that COVID numbers are increasing across the state,” DiBacco said.

DiBacco said the increase in cases across the state has led to more school staff members having to quarantine, making it harder to keep school buildings open for in-person classes.

While in-person classes are expected to resume in January, the superintendent said the district will reassess learning models “based on our 14-day rolling average and our ability to staff our buildings.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said he did not yet think it was necessary to end in-person education.

“We should absolutely be taking steps to make sure we have a spring school semester,” Gottlieb said. “But after Thanksgiving, could we see more schools going to a distanced model? I think we will.”

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House Democrats Call For Adapting Low Interest Rates


Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – With the pandemic battering the economy and carving deep deficits in state finances, House Democrats recently called for Connecticut to increase borrowing to preserve key programs and to take advantage of low interest rates.

But the move could put them at odds with Gov. Ned Lamont, who tried unsuccessfully to force his fellow Democrats in the legislature on a “debt diet” during his first year in office.

And while House Democratic leaders insisted there is considerable room for more borrowing under one statutory bonding cap enacted three years ago, they failed to note a second legal limit that could make it difficult to put more on Connecticut’s credit card.

“It’s no secret that Connecticut faces big challenges when it comes to our economy and our budget,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, who replaces East Hartford Democrat Jason Rojas as the new House chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

Rojas, who was elected last week as the new House majority leader, joined Speaker-elect Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, Tuesday in announcing House leaders of the legislature’s budget panels.

Ritter said the House Democrats, which hold 97 out of 151 seats, are not necessarily planning to dramatically increase borrowing, but he suggested Connecticut has plenty of room on its credit card.

State government borrows funds for most capital projects by selling bonds on Wall Street, and Ritter noted Connecticut has hardly strained the credit card limit it sent in 2017.

That provision limits general obligation borrowing, bonds paid off in the budget’s General Fund, at $1.9 billion per year. Connecticut issued $1.6 billion last fiscal year and $1.25 billion two years ago.

And Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, who co-chairs the finance panel’s Bonding Subcommittee, noted that borrowing has become crucial for Connecticut cities and towns. More than $150 million in non-education grants provided to municipalities annually comes from borrowed funds rather than from the state budget.

When legislators adopted a two-year state budget in May 2019, they assumed there would be $17.4 billion in tax receipts flowing into the General Fund this fiscal year. Legislators normally would have adjusted the forecast this past May, just two months before the 2020-21 fiscal year began, but they ended the session early because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Though legislators returned to the Capitol for special sessions in July and October, the revenue schedule was not revised. Republicans charged Democrats were delaying suspending capital projects, many of which were planned in their home districts until after the Nov. 3 state elections.

“I asked the finance committee to fulfill its statutory obligation to revise the revenue schedule and that was completely ignored,” Rep. Vincent J. Candelora of North Branford said.

Connecticut ranks among the most indebted states, per capita, in the nation, and debt service costs consume more than 10 percent of the annual budget, a problem that prompted Lamont to press for his debt diet immediately upon taking office in January 2019.

Connecticut has regained about 60 percent of the jobs lost since the pandemic struck in March, and the state Department of Labor still is issuing more than 200,000 unemployment benefits per week.

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Gov. Ned Lamont Signs Property Revitalization Bill


Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced that he has signed into law a property revitalization bill that will promote the revitalization of environmentally contaminated, blighted parcels of land and put them back into good use in a way that will benefit the local economy of towns throughout Connecticut while at the same time ensuring environmental integrity.

Approved with bipartisan, unanimous support during the recent special session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the legislation sunsets the Connecticut Property Transfer Act of 1985, which both environmentalists and economic development officials agree was obsolete and ineffective and authorizes the development of a more flexible, predictable, environmentally sustainable, and socially just, release-based regulatory program commonly used in most other states.

Under this new system, rather than singling out certain properties with onerous requirements, it focuses compliance on contamination that poses the greatest risk to the environment, and creates a uniform, predictable set of standards to guide cleanups of low-risk spills without a lot of red tape.

The governor said this renewed approach will take parcels that have gone unused for generations and make them more attractive to private investors, benefiting both the environment and economic development. It is estimated that there are about 4,200 properties in Connecticut that fall under the Transfer Act, and only about a quarter of them have been cleaned up since the program began 35 years ago.

“In today’s challenging times, we are doing everything we can to build a stronger Connecticut economy that is safer and healthier environment for our children,” Lamont said. “This new law will streamline cleanups of contaminated properties, bring properties back to life and there’s never been a more important time to fix regulations that aren’t working, and adopt solutions for the greater good and benefit of our great state.”

The legislation was built through the robust participation of a diverse multitude of stakeholders and with the technical inputs of the professional staff at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

In particular, Lamont thanked the co-chairs of the legislature’s Environment Committee, State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) and State Representative Mike Demicco (D-Farmington) as well as the co-chairs of the Commerce Committee State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) and State Representative Caroline Simmons (D-Stamford) for their advocacy in getting the bill approved by both chambers of the General Assembly.

Connecticut Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said that she is working hard with business people to help create a more efficient clean-up system.

“This year, with strong legislative leadership and bipartisan support, we are responding to that call, and will finally move to a more effective release-based cleanup framework that matches the rest of the country,” Dykes said. “This new approach will protect our environment and our communities while incentivizing smart, sustainable, and environmentally informed development. DEEP looks forward to working collaboratively with stakeholders on the regulatory framework in the months ahead.”

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Connecticut Records One Million COVID-19 Tests


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced that more than one million COVID-19 tests have been recorded in Connecticut, a major accomplishment that has helped the state remain one of the few in the nation to keep the virus contained to low levels of transmission throughout the summer.

Lamont said that the state is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents in the face of the pandemic.

“This is a significant milestone, but we have to continue these efforts and keep going,” Lamont said. “We’re committed to moving forward with initiatives that keep testing available in the state to protect our residents, maintain the progress of our safe reopening and get children back to school.”

The state has implemented a variety of new and innovative efforts to ensure that testing is accessible for all residents with symptoms of COVID-19, or who have been exposed to the virus.

The state has also created new, targeted testing programs to provide routine testing for those at greater risk to exposure.

This testing strategy, developed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health with support from public health and scientific experts on the Re-open Connecticut Advisory Group, focused on developing testing capacity at in-state labs and with local health care providers.

It has been instrumental in maintaining rapid turnaround times even as other states have experienced significant spikes in cases.

During the month of August, the median time for a Connecticut test result to be delivered has been one day and 75 percent of tests have been returned in two days or less.

This is in stark comparison to reports from other states, where test results often take a week or more to return, rendering contract tracing and isolation strategies ineffective.

To support the state’s testing efforts, Lamont has allocated at least $250 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to support testing.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said that the improvements of testing capacity has been helpful.

“Connecticut’s ability to significantly bolster its testing capacity thanks to the incredible work of our agencies, testing partners and state-contracted labs has proven to be a critical tool in addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Bysiewicz said.

Bysiewicz said that the turnaround has been great for the state regarding infection rates.

“Connecticut went from a state with one of the highest infection rates to one of the lowest because of our ability to test, treat, and track,” Bysiewicz said. “Now more than ever, we must remain vigilant and continue to encourage residents to get tested, wear their masks, and practice proper social distancing.”

State-contracted laboratories that have processed several tests quickly include Genesys Diagnostics, the Jackson Laboratories and Quest Diagnostics.

Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said that the state is working diligently to make sure everyone is safe in the state.

“Connecticut has relentlessly pursued creating as much testing capacity as possible, working with in-state labs to greatly expand testing and reduce the delays seen in other states for getting results,” Gifford said.

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Hartford Common Council to Discuss Residency Requirement


HARTFORD — The Hartford Court of Common Council will hold a virtual meeting on Sept. 2 to discuss–among other things–residency requirement.

The meeting will be streamed and broadcasted through Hartford Public Access Television at www.hpatv.org or channel 96 for Comcast/Xfinity customers.

Items to be discussed during this meeting include an ordinance change submitted by Mayor Luke Bronin, which would update/amend the residency requirements for employees, an ordinance change submitted by Councilman Joshua Michtom.

Another significant agenda item is Bronin’s proposal to strengthen the Civilian Police Review Board.

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Rep. Brandon McGee Hesitant to Declare Victory


By Susan Thomas, Contributor

HARTFORD — Hartford and Windsor residents in the fifth district now face a nail-biting vote-counting process in the tally of the votes in Tuesday Democratic primary.

Late Tuesday, Rep. Brandon McGee had a decisive lead over his challenger, Craig Stallings in the Democratic primary.

The tally for the vote was expected by Friday. But it might be next Monday because of a confluence of events that led to low voter turn out; the COVID-19 pandemic, and its aftermath of social distancing in an urban enclave.

Additional obstruction to Hartford seeing a high voter turn out is media suppression of ethnic journalists or ethnic publications in the capital city of Hartford, according to sources close of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Also, Gov. Lamont signeed an executive order late Monday limited the deadline–despite the carefully crafted obstructions, to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Aug. 11 and arrival of these ballots by Thursday Aug. 13.

In the 5th House District in Hartford and Windsor — incumbent state Rep. McGee held a commanding lead over challenger Craig Stallings with all but one polling location reporting, according to The Hartford Courant.

McGee was unwilling to declare victory because of the low in-person turnout and theuncertainty of the absentee ballot count, but said he appreciated all the hard work of his supporters.

“At the end of the day, I’m really excited and appreciative of the efforts,” McGee said. “I’m honored with the unofficial numbers to say thank you.”

By 9:30 p.m., Stallings conceded.

“This was always a uphill battle. … My purpose for running was to create a new conversation focused on accountability in our community,” he said.

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2020 Political Round Up


By Thomas Nocera, Staff Writer

All five of Connecticut’s U.S. House of Representative seats are up for grabs in this year’s election. A field full of Republican hopefuls are intent on staging their own small upset against the five Democratic incumbents. While they might not agree on much, candidates from both parties claim this election could well shape the face of politics for years to come. The Republican primary will be Aug. 11. The general election will be Nov. 3.

With virtual conventions wrapped up, here’s a list of the heavyweight contenders, who have gotten nods from their respective parties.

First District: Central, includes Bristol, Torrington, and Hartford

Republican: Mary Fay

Mary Fay is currently West Hartford’s town councilor. A self-professed fiscal conservative, Fay intends on bringing that ideology with her to Washington if elected. She has a long history of campaign experience, winning two-terms as an elected member of the West Hartford Town Council where she served on the budget and finance committee. In her professional life, she was an executive director for the Connecticut Retirement Service Authority, and worked in finance for General Electric and ING. Fay will be running against incumbent John Larson – her former high school history teacher.

Democratic: John Larson

John Larson has served as the first District House Representative since 1999. Before that, he was a multi-term state senator. During his time in D.C., he has championed a number of causes: in 2007 he sponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sought to increase the development and use of renewable energies. He also introduced the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to Congress, which sought to provide loans and support to small businesses nationwide. Most recently, he was allegedly involved in a social experiment with food stamps, Medicaid, and social security issues to help shape policies in congress.

Second District: Eastern, includes New London, Enfield, Norwich

Republican: Tom Gilmer

An Ohio native, Gilmer moved to Connecticut in 2014 where he founded and operated a large a construction management company that has worked throughout the state. He also served as a trade market manager for energy giant BP. Gilmer believes the private sector thrives when the government is kept on the periphery. He favors the looser regulations in the private sector, and has struck a heavy economic note on campaign trail thus far.

Democrat: Joe Courtney

Courtney was a lawyer and Connecticut House of Representatives member before being elected to Congress in 2006. There, he serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Courtney was a vocal opponent to the Trump corporate tax cuts and Muslim travel ban. He is well known for his support of District 2’s large defense jobs industry.

Third District : Central, includes New Haven and Middleton

Republican: Margaret Streiker

Streiker hopes her background managing large real estate investments and operations will give her an edge in the uphill battle to replace District 3’s long serving incumbent, Rosa DeLauro. Her flagship company, Newcastle Reality, managed and invested millions in residential and commercial properties in New York City. However, it was not without controversy. Before closing in 2019, Newcastle Reality was accused of cost inflation on projects, receiving illegal kickbacks from construction contractors, and illegal buyouts of rent-stabilized apartments. Streiker herself was never singled out – but other employees, and the company as a whole, were.  She has made it a point to highlight that, though she is a republican, she would be willing to oppose the president and work across the aisle when necessary.

Democrat: Rosa DeLauro

DeLauro began serving as District 3’s representative in 1991. Since, has a history of championing progressive causes in D.C. DeLauro’s taken vocal and progressive stances on healthcare, gun control, and campaign finance reform. She is one of the original members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and currently sits on a subcommittee dedicated to the organization of federal funds for coronavirus relief efforts.

Fourth District : Southwestern, includes Stamford, Bridgeport, and Norwalk

Republican: Johnathan Riddles

Riddles is a New York native and self-professed “green” republican who has worked extensively in the financial services industry as a private wealth manager. He is currently vice president of The Private Bank, a division of Bank of America catering to clients with substantial assets. With little previous entanglements in party politics, he is hoping voters will see his appeal as a political outsider.

Democrat: Jim Himes

Himes has served as District 4’s representative since 2009 and currently sits on the Committee on Finical Services, and the House Intelligence Committee. He has been a consistent advocate of financial industry reform and a supporter of green energy initiatives. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare reformation will be one of his campaigns central initiatives.

Fifth District : Northwestern, includes Waterbury and Danbury

Republican: David X. Sullivan

Sullivan has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and his economic policies. He’s running on a platform centered on lowering taxes and the deregulating the private sector. Sullivan has voiced strong opposition to the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘Medicare For All’ initiatives in Congress – efforts supported by District 5’s incumbent, Representative Jahana Hayes. Prior to being nominated, Sullivan worked as a prosecutor for the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. 

Democrat: Jahana Hayes

Waterbury resident Jahana Hayes is the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. Before politics, the one-term incumbent was a career teacher. The first term representative won the 2018 election with nearly 56 percent of the vote and has since focused heavily on education and healthcare reform. In her first term, her key vote was to impeach President Donald Trump. During the coronavirus pandemic, Hayes has been vocal in highlighting disparities and difficulties in distance learning regiments, and has been critical of the safety of economic re-openings. But Hayes is unaware of a pending lawsuit against her for political obstruction by her former campaign staffers, who helped sabotage a stronger candidate than Hayes to run for congress against former House Representative Elizabeth Esty. Hayes waited out Esty’s scandal and jumped in the race after she resigned amid a scandal about sexual harassment in her office. Some say Hayes had news of Esty’s impending resignation and her cronies worked for three years to stage adverse experiences for the other black woman, who was deemed the most eligible to be the first African-American congresswoman from Connecticut. The plan to put Hayes in congress began when she enrolled in graduate school while the other black woman was a professor at a top 20 university.

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Hartford Police to Investigate Rogue Cop


HARTFORD — Hartford police are investigating one of thier colleagues: Officer Jay Szepanksi.

As a result of this investigation, Szepanksi is no longer in his current role. He was assigned to the property room, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Szapanksi is accused of using social media to post profane language about Hartford residents.

Former Police Chief James Rovella speaks to journalists as Hartford CouncilmanThomas “TJ” Clarke looks on ; Photo by CTMirror

While authorities stress his alleged posts don’t represent the entire Hartford Police Department, Hartford residents are not surprised by this behavior. They want immediate action to what clearly is an affront to many hard-working individuals who live in the capital city.

William Francis Moffett Jr posted this on Facebook: “Terminate the officer immediately.”

Another Hartford dweller named Allen Freeman asked: “ Where are all the ‘Good cops” flooding the comments section standing up for residents and calling out these Bad cops publicly?”

National Unrest Sharpens CT’s Focus on Police Community Trust

Interim Chief of Hartford Police Jason Thody released a statement saying, “Public trust, faith, and police legitimacy are essential requirements to be an effective police officer. Making comments that tend to diminish officer-credibility, erode public truck (sic), and bring discredit to the Department or to the officer can lead to an inability to police in the City.”

Thody also added, “Officers should be mindful that, while the Department supports legitimate expressions of free speech, such expressions are not without restrictions.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also responded to those posts saying in part, “The vast, vast majority of our officers view the chance to serve our city as a privilege, and posts like this do a disservice to all the men and women of our department who work so hard to build and maintain relationships of trust, respect, and partnership.”

There has been much criticism of Hartford Police Department for its lack of diversity. Residents over the years have made several complaints about officers who abused thier powers. Internal investigations seem inadequate to address this malfesance evident in the city. And so residents were disappointed over what seems like entrenched racism, xenophobia and sexism.

NBC: Former Hartford Police Officer Arrested After Assaulting Two People

Since 2014, there has been abuse of power reported under former Police Chief James Rovella. Rovella resigned on February 15, 2018 amidst accusations of an alleged cover up of grand larceny charges and theft of services against political operatives, including several police officers, Rovella moonlighted with during President Barack Obama and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administrations and re-election campaigns.

The Hartford Guardian: Blumenthal, Bronin, Meet With Hartford Officials to Discuss Ways to Quiet Tensions, Police Brutality.

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Hartford Holds Public Hearing on Neighborhod Assistance Act


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Katie Glass, the executive director of the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, wants to create a safe environment for artists in an old building that was donated. So she plans to fix it up.

That’s why she applied for $143, 002 from the Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act. The organization hopes to do roofing and lighting updates.

“It is a 40-year-old building that requires renovations,” Glass said. “Our roof being fixed is critical because it means that people can keep coming to a safe environment.”

The organization, which enriches lives through hand weaving, is also asking for a new HVAC system because the one that is in place now is original to the building.

Glass was one of the 67 agencies that apply for the program. Only five of them showed up to the public hearing Monday night at city hall.

The NAA Tax Credit Program is designed to provide funding for municipal and tax exempt organizations by providing a corporation business tax credit for businesses that make cash contributions to these entities.

The Hartford City Council must take action on 67 eligible 2019 Neighborhood Assistance Act proposals no later then June 10.

The organizations will benefit from the Neighborhood Assistance Act because unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid. These grants are designed to help these organizations grow. The types of community programs that qualify for the NAA tax credit program include energy conservation, employment and training, child care services, neighborhood assistance, substance abuse, open space acquisition, crime prevention programs, and affordable housing development.

This year the caps on individuals are the same. There is a $150,000 cap for non-profit organizations for the amount that they can raise from donors that is covered by tax credit. There is also an $150,000 cap for each dollar on the amount they can donate in any one tax year.

 In previous years, the total amount of credits that were permitted state wide was $10 million dollars. Two years ago they cut that maximum in half to $5 million dollars state wide.

Joan Gurksi, director of grants, explained the process of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. “What the Connecticut DRS does after they receive all of the applications is they not only determine whether or not they agree with the programs but they also assign a limit of the amount that can be raised with tax credit.

There is a formula that is applied in order for DRS to generate the amount that each organization/agency is supposed to receive. There is some discretion during this process.”

Connecticut DRS lets the public know how much tax credit is allotted to each donor from each non-profit. The lists that Central Grants gets from Connecticut DRS will be posted on the Central Grant web page.

Adria Giordano, director of development for Chrysalis Center, explained why her company is requesting a $150,000 grant from the state. “We provide homes for homeless individuals, people who are on the brink of homelessness and those who suffer from mental health issues,” said Giordano.

The Chrysalis Center has a total of five sites in the state of Connecticut, one of those sites being for veterans. The organization recently received a grant to purchase the home for 21 homeless veterans. Giorando said, “The home that was purchased is a turn of a century building that would benefit immensely from renovations. It needs a lot of work to be energy efficient.” The organization wants to get the renovations done as soon as possible to improve the overall safety of the building.

Jennifer DeJong represented the Village for Families and Children. The organization is requesting a $150,000 grant for numerous upgrades to their facility. It has been brought to their attention that they are experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide.

They have been advised to replace the boilers that they currently have with high energy efficient stainless steel boilers. This organization works in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families and needs to refurbish their facility without any further delay.

Council President, Glendowlyn Thames, concluded the public hearing by telling each of the representatives that she doesn’t see any issues with their grant requests and they should expect to know if their grants were approved by Labor Day.

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Hartford Woman Facing Deportation Continues Fight to Stay in U.S., Court Grants Reprieve


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.

Wayzaro Walton’s wife, Tamika Ferguson, wipes away tears after a press conference on Tuesday with Attorney General William Tong in Hartford. Photo: Ann-Marie Adams

Walton Detained

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.

Legal Question

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.”

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