As the federal government continues to crack down on illegal immigration, a business owner and father of three in Connecticut will need to show proof that he plans to go back to Mexico.
Mariano Cardoso Sr. is going public with his fight to stay in the United States.
“There was no water, no food, it was very cold,” Cardoso said through an interpreter.
Cardoso spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News about how he risked his life and the lives of his family to make it to the United States, not once, but twice.
“We traveled with the clothes on our backs,” Cardoso said. “That was it.”
Back in 1990, Cardoso said he walked through the desert, crossing the border in the San Diego area, making his way to New Jersey where he worked as a landscaper. Cardoso said, in 1995, his initial lawyer made a mistake with his paperwork and was denied asylum. He was told he needed to go back to Mexico.
“ICE started to look into the case and they closed the case for me to start my residency and I wasn't able to get my documents at that time,” Cardoso said.
Cardoso said he took his family, which now included three children, two of them born in the United States.
“I did take the initiative and I left the country. But, at that time, they did not inform me, there was a certain time that I couldn't come back,” Cardoso said. “They didn't say I couldn't come back into the country.”
In 1996, Cardoso said he made the dangerous journey back to the United States.
“I had to come back because my kids were not used to the lifestyle there,” Cardoso said.
This time, the family settled in New Britain and in Connecticut, they seized their American dream.
“Put food on the table and put a roof over my kids’ heads that's the main priority,” Cardoso said. “That's why I worked so hard.”
Cardoso owns a landscaping business and it got them a nice home in New Britain. On Sundays, he said he often attends church. Records show, he's never been convicted of a crime, but he said he's most proud of his three children. Cardoso Junior is studying engineering at Central Connecticut State University. His daughter Perla is at Capital Community College and Edgar is working full-time.
“I always dreamed and expected that I had a beautiful family and raised my kids to the best of my ability. The material things come after my family,” Cardoso said. “My family is the priority here.”
Each year, Cardoso said he applied for a stay, all while simultaneously working on citizenship paperwork, but he said there have been many snags navigating the system.
In 2011, he and Cardoso Junior got a scare when they were set to be deported. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal intervened and they got a stay. When Cardoso Senior went to renew it this year, he was denied.
“It was a devastation,” Cardoso said. “All my family is here, my kids.”
On Wednesday night, Cardoso went through pictures of his two decades in America. On Friday, he'll need to prove he's ready to give it up. This father of three will report to the Federal Courthouse In Hartford, showing ICE officials he has a plane ticket back to Mexico. It'll need to be used before Dec. 12.
If he were to go back, he'd be going solo, leaving his family behind. Cardoso said his native country will truly feel foreign.
“No one over there even knows me,” Cardoso said. “It's been 20 or more years since I've gone back to my country and there's no one to go to, there's nothing to go for.”
That's why he and his family are taking this fight public, once again enlisting the help of our senators. On Friday morning, a familiar scene will play out at the federal courthouse. Cardoso and supporters will be rallying there, just like a handful of others facing deportation did before. Cardoso watched those cases and knows getting a stay appears to 50-50 chance. He said he's willing to accept his fate, whatever that may be.
“Obviously, I don't want to leave my family. It's a devastating thing,” Cardoso said. “I don't know how to explain it, but if I have to go, I just have to do my diligence and go.”
Channel 3 reached out to ICE multiple times over the last week for additional information on this case, but the station hasn't heard back yet. Channel 3 did ask Cardoso Senior if he'd seek sanctuary in a local church, at this time, he's not planning on it.
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