Advocates for 34-year-old Wayzaro Walton protested outside the federal courthouse in Hartford, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement has an office. "I think this is really crazy. It's ridiculous," Walton's wife, Tamika Ferguson, said at the rally. "Her pardon is valid. She has no record. ... We need to stop this as soon as possible before there will be another family that's out here feeling how I feel right now. I'm not happy. I'm not happy at all. I'm so sad."
Walton's family brought her to the U.S. in the 1980s when she was 4 years old, and her mother obtained legal permanent resident status for her, said her lawyer, Erin O'Neil-Baker. She and Ferguson, who is a U.S. citizen, have a 15-year-old daughter and live in Hartford.
A full pardon approved by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles in January took effect Wednesday, erasing one felony larceny conviction from 2006 and several misdemeanor convictions. The larceny charge was related to a shoplifting incident, O'Neil-Baker said.
O'Neil-Baker said she would be filing new court papers Wednesday seeking an emergency stay of the deportation order. "To deport her now to a country she hasn't been to since 1987 would be a huge detriment to her, her wife, her child and her community," O'Neil-Baker said. "We have a woman who no longer has any criminal conviction history and she is married to a U.S. citizen."
Walton was taken into custody Tuesday while checking in at a private agency in Hartford that works with ICE in monitoring immigrants. She was brought to Massachusetts for detention and deportation. It's not clear when the deportation would occur.
Federal officials have indicated that they are not recognizing the pardon because it wasn't issued by the governor, O'Neil-Baker said. Connecticut is the only state where its parole board, and not the governor, approves pardons.
An ICE spokesman declined to comment on the pardon Wednesday. "Wayzaro Yashimabet Walton is an unlawfully present citizen of the United Kingdom with a final order of removal issued by an Immigration Judge," an ICE statement said. "Subsequent appeals of the immigration judge's decision were dismissed. Walton is a convicted felon with numerous additional misdemeanor convictions. Walton will remain in ICE custody until her scheduled removal."
Richard Sparaco, executive director of the state parole board, said the agency cannot comment on the reasoning for pardons after they have taken effect. Walton has been checking in regularly with immigration officials for years, has not violated any immigration rules and has been wearing a monitoring device, O'Neil-Baker said.
Walton has a case pending before the federal Bureau of Immigration Appeals that seeks to overturn the original deportation order. She also has a lawsuit pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
O'Neil-Baker planned to file motions for emergency stays of deportation Wednesday with both the Bureau of Immigration Appeals and the appeals court.