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Case Name Connecticut v. Department of Homeland Security IM-CT-0013
Docket / Court 3:19-cv-01597 ( D. Conn. )
State/Territory Connecticut
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
This is a case regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) interpretation of the Pardon Waiver Clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)(8 U.S.C. §1227). The clause provided that that a noncitizen will not be deportable for certain criminal convictions “if [the noncitizen] ... read more >
This is a case regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) interpretation of the Pardon Waiver Clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)(8 U.S.C. §1227). The clause provided that that a noncitizen will not be deportable for certain criminal convictions “if [the noncitizen] . . . has been granted a full and unconditional pardon by the President of the United States or by the Governor of any of the several States.”

Connecticut granted pardons via a Board of Pardons and Paroles rather than through an action of the Governor. In the summer of 2018, DHS interpreted the Pardon Waiver Clause of the INA to mean that Connecticut’s system of granting pardons did not waive a person’s deportability even if they were granted a pardon by the board. This re-interpretation resulted in DHS arresting and detaining some noncitizens who had received a Connecticut pardon. Connecticut filed suit on October 10, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Connecticut claimed DHS’s interpretation singled out the state for unfair treatment and violated its interest in being treated with equal sovereignty to the other states by showing no need to single out the state. Connecticut argued the DHS interpretation and the department’s pattern and practice of rejecting Connecticut pardons: 1) was not in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) or with years of precedent; 2) violated the APA as the change was arbitrary and capricious; 3) violated the Tenth Amendment of the constitution by attempting to control how the state exercised its pardoning power; and 4) violated Connecticut’s constitutional right to equal sovereignty. Connecticut sought declaratory relief stating that the DHS’s practice violated the APA, and injunctive relief prohibiting DHS from interfering with Connecticut’s pardon system. Judge Vanessa Bryant was assigned the case.

The government moved to dismiss on January 27, 2020, arguing that the state failed to allege any injury fairly traceable to DHS’s interpretation of the clause, and that even if an injury did exist, Connecticut failed to plead sufficient facts upon which relief could be granted because it did not challenge a reviewable final agency action under the APA. Connecticut responded by filing an amended complaint with more particularized facts on March 18, 2020. The government moved to dismiss the amended complaint on May 18, 2020, for reasons similar to the previous motion to dismiss.

On August 6, 2020, the parties jointly moved to allow Connecticut to respond to the government’s second motion to dismiss in a joint status report. The report was filed on August 31, 2020 and indicated the parties were attempting a good-faith effort to settle the issues without further litigation. Meanwhile, on September 3, Judge Bryant denied the first of the government’s motions to dismiss as moot.

The parties filed a notice of Settlement in Principle on September 24, 2020, in which they agreed that a resolution of Connecticut’s claims had been reached. Judge Bryant ordered the case dismissed without prejudice the following day. However, DHS never provided a formal approval of the settlement.

On March 23, 2021, DHS posted online that the agency would honor Connecticut pardons, but maintained that its prior position—that noncitizens could be deported despite receiving a Connecticut pardon—was a reasonable interpretation of the governing statute. DHS’s statement indicated that the agency could adopt the prior interpretation again in the future because no formal settlement was ever approved that would resolve the issue. As such, Connecticut filed to have the case reopened on March 25, 2021. The court granted this on April 8, finding that while the case had supposedly settled in principle, the issue of DHS’s interpretation of the pardon clause of the INA and whether it was reasonable remained contested; the issue raised by Connecticut was thus still ripe. Connecticut filed a response to the government’s second motion to dismiss on April 22, 2021.

The case remains open.

John Duffield - 08/02/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Federalism (including 10th Amendment)
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Pattern or Practice
Immigration/Border
Deportation - criteria
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff is the State of Connecticut
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 10/10/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  DHS Statement on Treatment of a Full and Unconditional Pardon Issued Under the Law and Process Currently in Place in Connecticut as Effective for Purposes of the INA § 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) Pardon Waiver Clause and 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(c)(2)
Department of Homeland Security
Date: Mar. 23, 2021
By: Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Conn.
06/22/2021
3:19-cv-01597-VLB
IM-CT-0013-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Conn.
10/10/2019
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-CT-0013-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
03/18/2020
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 19]
IM-CT-0013-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/18/2020
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF# 24]
IM-CT-0013-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
08/31/2020
Joint Status Report [ECF# 32]
IM-CT-0013-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
09/24/2020
Joint Notice of Settlement and Motion to Continue [ECF# 34]
IM-CT-0013-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
not recorded
03/23/2021
DHS Statement on Treatment of a Full and Unconditional Pardon Issued Under the Law and Process Currently in Place in Connecticut as Effective for Purposes of the INA § 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) Pardon Waiver Clause and 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(c)(2)
IM-CT-0013-0007.pdf | Detail
D. Conn.
04/22/2021
Report of Parties' Rule 26(f) Planning Meeting [ECF# 42]
IM-CT-0013-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Bryant, Vanessa Lynne (D. Conn.) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Avery, Vanessa Roberts (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0001 | IM-CT-0013-0002 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006 | IM-CT-0013-9000
Chapple, Margaret Quilter (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0001 | IM-CT-0013-0002 | IM-CT-0013-0006 | IM-CT-0013-9000
Perry, Joshua (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0002 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006 | IM-CT-0013-9000
Tong, William (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0001 | IM-CT-0013-0002 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006
Defendant's Lawyers Boynton, Brian M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0006
Clark, Jeffrey Bossert (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0005
Davis, Ethan P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0004
Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0003
Larson, John W (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-9000
Peachey, William Charles (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0003 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006
Silvis, William C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0003 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006
Steinhart, Eric Conrad (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-9000
York, Thomas Benton (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CT-0013-0003 | IM-CT-0013-0004 | IM-CT-0013-0005 | IM-CT-0013-0006 | IM-CT-0013-9000

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