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Facing deportation, man taking sanctuary at Old Lyme church granted last-minute stay

Old Lyme — When Mariano Cardoso Sr. woke up Friday morning at First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, he faced the day for which his deportation order had been set. But in the afternoon, a stay was granted.

The New Britain resident gathered with members of his immediate and extended family at the church early Friday evening in what was originally scheduled as a press conference to announce sanctuary for Cardoso.

"He's very grateful that today he won, today he was given a stay," said Mariano Cardoso Jr., translating for his father from Spanish. "He couldn't have done it without everyone helping, everyone caring. He's very happy now that he knows he can celebrate with the rest of the family."

Cardoso Sr., 50, came to the United States from Mexico 27 years ago and has spent 17 years in New Britain. He owns a landscaping company, does not have a criminal record and has three children, two of whom are U.S. citizens.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Shawn Neudauer said in an email to The Day on Friday afternoon, "A stay was granted today by the Board of Immigration Appeals pending a decision to consider a Motion to Reopen his case. If they decline to hear his case ICE will carry out the removal order."

He referred further questions to the U.S. Department of Justice. A regional spokesperson for the agency could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Cardoso Jr. said his family found out about the stay in a 3 p.m. phone call from their attorney, Anthony Collins.

The deportation time was set at 5 p.m., he said, "so while immigration did the right thing, it's still scary that he was given minutes before he was supposed to be on the airplane."

In explaining the decision to provide sanctuary for Cardoso Sr., First Congregational Church senior minister Steve Jungkeit cited Leviticus 19:34 of the Bible, which instructs people to treat a foreigner – or stranger, in some translations – like the native-born.

A 2011 ICE memorandum was designed to ensure that certain enforcement actions "do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches," with a few exceptions.

But Cardoso Jr. feels there is a risk of an ICE agent coming into a church, and Jungkeit predicts "there will come a time when they test those boundaries and make an example of some institution."

Cardoso Jr., 29, said he is still under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for the next few months, "but who's to say they won't come after me next?"

The Rev. Gini King, who is active with immigration cases through her involvement with CT Shoreline Indivisible, shared her thoughts on Cardoso's case in a phone interview with The Day following the press conference.

"These are the people who have been showing up to their ICE meetings twice a year for years on end," King said. "ICE knows where they are, because they've been following the rules, and because ICE knows where they are and they've been coming in for years for check-ins and being honest with what they're doing. ICE has their records and just go after these people who have been here for 20 years."

Cardoso Jr. explained that his father was given a removal order in 1995, and in 2008, both he and his father were detained for two weeks in Rhode Island. Cardoso Sr. was ordered for deportation in 2011, and Cardoso Jr. credited U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal's intervention for the temporary stay that followed.

Andrea Sanchez, a classmate of Cardoso Jr. at Central Connecticut State University, created the Facebook page We Are Mariano and has been involved with rallies in support of Cardoso Sr.

She said there was an event on Black Friday that involved signs saying things like, "You're worried about savings while we're worried about saving our family."


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