Mexican student facing deportation wins US stay

Updated 4/26/11

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) - Sen. Richard Blumenthal says the Department of Homeland Security called his office to inform him that a stay of removal had been granted for 23-year-old Mariano Cardoso.

Cardoso said Tuesday that he felt relieved and honored after Blumenthal called him to deliver the news.

Connecticut's Governor Dan Malloy has joined a grass-roots campaign to stop federal officials from deporting an undocumented immigrant. Malloy says the young man can contribute to the country, and he's proven it.

CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports that when Mariano Cardoso Jr.'s parents brought their ten-22-month-old son to America from Mexico, all the wanted was a better life for him.

Now, living outside Hartford, Conn., the 23-year-old is about to graduate with an associate's degree in liberal arts.

"It hasn't been easy at any step," Cardoso Jr. said.

It's taken him five years to pay for that two-year degree, and he says he's done it without financial aid or tuition assistance. His dream is to become a math professor or civil engineer.

"It has taken me 5 years and every part of it has been because I worked for it and my father worked for it," Cardoso Jr. said.

Now, however, he's in danger of losing it all, because his parents immigrated to the United States illegally. In 2008, federal immigration officials discovered his undocumented status. Now he's due to be deported within 60 days. In his fight to stay, Cordoso Jr. has gained a powerful ally.

"We've made a substantial investment in our society of this young man. I'd like to see that pay off for us," said Gov. Dan Malloy.

Cardoso's case got the attention of Connecticut's top leaders. In a letter, Gov. Malloy asked federal immigration officials to hold off on deporting him.

"I think he's an American. He was carried across the border at 22 months. He's as American as anyone who has lived here for 18 years," Malloy said.

Last year, Congress rejected The Dream Act, legislation designed to create a path to citizenship for young people like Cardoso Jr. During that debate, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that more than 50,000 undocumented high school graduates could qualify each year, but in Connecticut, the head of the state GOP says illegal immigrants strain limited resources.

"We can't have illegal immigration continuing to punish state and local governments with millions of dollars of healthcare costs and education costs and public safety costs. You have to follow the rules to be in this country and we shouldn't be promoting rule breaking as well," said Chris Healy, chairman of the Connecticut GOP.

For Mariano Cardoso Jr., the clock is ticking. He says he has no idea what he will do if he's sent back to Mexico, and his life is now caught in limbo.

"I haven't planned," Cardoso Jr. said. "I've been staying hopeful and I haven't made a backup plan in case that happens. I would assume that I would try to get back try to find a way to come back in because there is nothing that is waiting for me over there."

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.