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Top State Leaders Back College Student Fighting Deportation

Resident Since A Child, Could Be Sent To Mexico

Mark Spencer

April 20, 2011

The state's most powerful political leaders have joined a grass-roots campaign to stop the deportation to Mexico of an undocumented immigrant who attends Capital Community College.

Saying Mariano Cardoso Jr. can contribute to the country where he has lived since he was a baby, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wrote to federal officials Wednesday urging them to defer the deportation proceedings.

Cardoso, 23, was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in 2008 during a chance encounter in New Britain and is now just a month from graduation. He was ordered deported after a hearing in February 2010 and received a letter this February saying his appeal had been rejected.

"It doesn't make any sense," Malloy said in an interview with The Courant.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday his staff has been working with federal immigration officials to review Cardoso's case and is "encouraged about his prospects" of having deportation deferred. "I think the merits are clearly in favor of him staying in this country," Blumenthal said.

Cardoso, who reluctantly went public with his plight after his appeal was rejected, has drawn support from teachers and other students at Capital. The Trinity College student group Stop the Raids has organized demonstrations, a support group is forming at Central Connecticut State University and more than 900 people have signed an Internet petition on his behalf.

Cardoso, who wants to become a math professor or civil engineer, is soft-spoken and shy, a legacy he says is in part due to growing up undocumented, always wary of drawing attention. He said Wednesday he was unaware Malloy was going to write a letter, but was grateful to the governor and others who have supported him. "It has given me hope," Cardoso said. "I couldn't have imagined it would go this far."

Malloy, Blumenthal and Sen. Joseph Lieberman also are using Cardoso's situation to emphasize their long-standing support for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, which would give young people like him a chance to study here and eventually earn legal status.

"Congress needs to address immigration reform in a comprehensive and commonsense manner, but until that happens, we cannot allow young men and women like Mariano, who, through no fault of their own, were brought here as children, to lose this chance at a better life," Malloy said in a statement released with his letter. "For all intents and purposes, Mariano is American. To send him back to a country he has no recollection of and did not grow up in makes little sense, particularly as he is finishing his degree and looking to contribute to his community and this state."

Whitney Phillips, a spokeswoman for Lieberman, said in an e-mail, "This case highlights why the senator is a strong and active supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and such legislation as the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who attend college or join the military."

The DREAM Act applies to young people who were brought to the U.S. when they were 15 years old or younger, have lived here for at least five years and graduated from an American high school, among other conditions. They would be given "conditional status," allowing them to remain legally in the country.

The act passed the House last year and had majority support in the Senate, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster.

ICE has the authority to grant a deferral on an individual case after reviewing its merits. "ICE received Governor Malloy's letter and will respond directly to the Governor and his staff following a thorough review of its contents," said Chuck Jackson, an agency spokesman.

Cardoso also would be able to stay in the country if a U.S. senator introduced what is known as a private bill that specifically named him as someone worthy of remaining here. Private bills are extremely rare and Lieberman's office said it was his policy not to support them. Blumenthal said he did not want to speculate about introducing one until all other options are exhausted.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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