Connecticut governor, senator help immigrant stay

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Two years into a fight to stay in the US, Mexican college student Mariano Cardoso learned of a victory last week — not from immigration authorities, but from a US senator who had taken up his cause. On a call to his cell phone, Sen. Richard Blumenthal delivered the news: Homeland Security officials had suspended Cardoso’s deportation, allowing him to graduate next month and work in the US. “He told me we had a lot to celebrate, but I told him I had to go to class,” Cardoso said. “I didn’t know what he was talking about.” It was a culmination of the senator’s deep personal involvement in the case. Advocates say the supporting role he played, along with that of Connecticut’s governor, proved critical to winning a reprieve, but also highlights a fractured immigration policy in which decisions can turn on the influence of one’s supporters. The Obama administration is facing growing pressure from Democrats and Latino groups to protect illegal immigrants like Cardoso, 23, a college student who has lived in the US since his family took him here as a toddler. Legislation known as the Dream Act would give them a path to legal status as long as they enrolled in college or joined the military, but it has failed several times in Congress. The government does grant exemptions, but advocates say they are handed out erratically. For Cardoso, the high-level connections resulted from a deliberate public relations strategy. He had been targeted for deportation since August 2008, when immigration agents discovered his status after intervening in a gathering in his uncle’s backyard. With his legal options dwindling, he reached out in February to a student immigrant organization, United We Dream, which coached him on seeking and handling publicity. The first step was a student-organized demonstration at Trinity College, though he said he was reluctant at first. “I was afraid that agents were going to come out and take me again,” Cardoso said. A petition circulated on his behalf. Reporters began telling his story. Then he met in person with Blumenthal, who reached out to Immigration. Two weeks ago, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked the agency to let Cardoso stay and contribute to the only country he’s ever known. (ap)

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