Courtesy of Yale Law School

Yale Law students argued in Hartford federal court earlier this week that two Connecticut residents deported to Italy should be allowed to testify in person before the General Assembly.

U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant has yet to rule on whether Paula Milardo and Arnold Giammarco, who both moved to Connecticut legally in the early 1960s when they were children, should be allowed to return temporarily for an April hearing on how criminal convictions affect immigrant families.

Milardo was deported in 2011 because of a theft conviction. Giammarco was deported in 2012 because of convictions for drug possession and misdemeanor theft.

In February, Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, and Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, subpoenaed Milardo and Giammarco to appear at an April 4 hearing about how criminal convictions affect immigrant families.

Earlier this month, the Yale Law School students representing Milardo and Giammarco submitted a petition with the court that asks the Department of Homeland Security to temporary suspend blocking the deportees from returning to the U.S.

According to the Yale Law School website, Milardo is also requesting that she be allowed to attend her state habeas trial which is scheduled for April 18 and 20.

Elizabeth Stevens, the assistant director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation, argued that there is “no compelling, emergent reason” for Giammarco and Milardo to return. Immigration officials have offered to provide teleconferencing equipment for the two to testify from their current residences in Italy.

Claire Simonich, one of the law students representing the deportees on behalf of the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School said she was “hopeful that Judge Bryant would defer to” the General Assembly and allow the pair to testify in person. She expects Bryant to issue a ruling “relatively soon.”

For the legislators, the deportees presence at the hearing is “essential to assess their credibility and remorse,” Simonich added. 

Courtesy of Yale Law School

Giammarco legally moved to the U.S. from Italy at the age of four in 1960. The next year, 11 year old Milardo made the same journey. Both settled and raised their families in Connecticut. The former served in the US Army, was honorably discharged, and joined the Connecticut National Guard. The latter married a US Army veteran of Vietnam, had three children and six grandchildren.

More recently, both also dealt with addictions. When Giammarco’s first marriage fell apart, he became addicted to drugs and was arrested multiple times on low-level larceny charges and spent some time in jail. Milardo became addicted to gambling and, in 2010, was arrested for stealing $30,000 from a friend. Milardo pled guilty, repaid the theft, apologized, served five months in jail and, like Giammarco, is now recovered from her addiction.

In 2011, both were seized by federal immigration officials. Milardo, on the grounds of her larceny conviction, was deported immediately to Sicily. Giammarco spent 18 months in custody fighting his deportation on the grounds of his 1982 application for citizenship that was never fully processed by the government. After he and his family could no longer financially support the appeal, he too was deported.

Giammarco, who is now married to an American citizen with whom he has a five year old daughter he Skypes daily, received widespread media attention after filing a federal lawsuit in 2013 in hopes of forcing the Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, to adjudicate his decades-old application.

According to the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, the lawsuit was originally dismissed by the U.S. District Court, but was taken up for reconsideration last fall.

During last year’s legislative session resolutions to formally pardon Giammarco were introduced by Rep. Jack Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, and Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, but neither were voted upon.

“As far as we know, this is the first time that a state legislature has issued a subpoena for the testimony of a deported resident,” Simonich said.