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A Few Other Connecticut Politicians Speak Out For Mariano Cardoso

Gregory Hladky

April 26, 2011

Things are looking brighter for Mariano Cardoso Jr., the 23-year-old Connecticut college student being threatened with deportation by federal immigration agents just weeks before he’s due to get his engineering degree.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy went public with a letter to U.S. Homeland Security officials, pleading with them not to enforce the deportation order against Cardoso, who has been in this country since his parents brought him across the border from Mexico when he was 22 months of age.

“For all intents and purposes, Mariano is American,” Malloy said in releasing his letter. “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.”

Malloy’s letter (and his later appearance on a network TV show to talk about the case) seemed to jolt some other top Connecticut pols into action to convince the feds that sending Cardoso to Mexico would be a stupid mistake.

Cardoso had for weeks been seeking help from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, but Connecticut’s newest senator appeared reluctant to do more publicly than have his staff issue a statement about how this case demonstrates the need for the federal Dream Act. That’s the long-stalled legislation to provide a way for undocumented immigrants like Cardoso, who arrived here as minors and are working to get their education, to remain in the U.S. and to become citizens.

Blumenthal says he and his staff have been working behind the scenes to convince Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to let Cardoso stay.

“I’m very hopeful that the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] will defer any action on his fate,” Blumenthal said last week.

One way to ensure that would be for Blumenthal or Connecticut’s other U.S. senator, Joe Lieberman, to submit what’s called a “private bill” in Congress for Cardoso. It’s effectively a legislative maneuver to force a delay in any deportation action, and one that former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd used several times to help undocumented immigrants avoid immediate deportation.

“Private bills are very unlikely to pass and ultimately ineffective because they do not necessarily prevent deportations while the legislation is being considered,” Whitney Phillips, a spokesperson for Lieberman said in an e-mail response to the Advocate. “Our office will continue to work on this case and Senator Lieberman strongly supports the Dream Act which provides a comprehensive solution.”

(What Phillips doesn’t mention is that private bills, in the arcane congressional system, aren’t expected to pass and are usually very effective in at least temporarily stopping deportation actions.)

“I want to exhaust that possibility [of persuading Homeland Security to hold off] before considering any other options,” Blumenthal says when asked why he hasn’t offered a private bill on Cardoso’s behalf. “I’m hopeful DHS will accede to my request and the requests of others that action be deferred. That option ought to be exhausted before going to legislation.”

U.S. Rep. John Larson issued a statement arguing that “Mariano Cardoso is a perfect example of why we need to enact the Dream Act to help good kids find a path to citizenship and the American dream. … Unfortunately, until we can get the Dream Act enacted, or Congress addresses comprehensive immigration reform, there are really not any true remedies for Mariano.”

Congressional rules apparently make it a lot tougher in the U.S. House to submit private bills in immigration cases than it is in the U.S. Senate.

ICE officials responded to Malloy’s letter by saying Cardoso’s case is now under review, and that they would get back to the governor when their review was complete.

Cardoso, a shy and quiet student at Capital Community College, had the bad luck to be picked up by ICE agents back in 2008 and has been anxiously looking for a legal way to stay in this country ever since.

He says he didn’t know Malloy was going to send that letter to ICE and has been delighted by the show of official support for his cause and told reporters that “It’s given me hope.”

Asked if he’s heard from Blumenthal or any other member of Connecticut’s congressional delegation about why they won’t submit a private bill for him, Cardoso gets even quieter.

“No, I have not,” is all he says.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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