He’s a working husband, father to three loving children, contributor to the community, long-standing member of his Langley church . . . and a threat to national security.
That’s what the Canadian government has told Jose Figueroa. The government wants him deported back to his home country of El Salvador. Recent decisions by Immigration Canada have denied him permanent residency status and so now he has found a legal plea, which he made to the Minister of Public Safety last month.
“This application is based on a section of the law that allows an entity claiming not to be in the list to apply to the minister of public safety for a certificate where the minister would state that the applicant in not listed,” said Figueroa.
In layman’s terms, it means he could re-apply for resident status with a certificate saying he isn’t on a security threat list for this country.
The law also establishes that the minister must respond within 15 days after the application was made. It was mailed June 3 and a reply was expected Tuesday but didn’t come, he said.
For so many in Langley, as shown by the large turnout to support him last month, Figueroa is the type of person who should be accepted as a Canadian citizen. When he came to Canada, he went about it honestly, applying for refugee status when he arrived at the border in 1997.
He has lived in Langley for 16 years, with all three of his children born at Langley Memorial Hospital.
But his involvement as a student in El Salvador with the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) during the civil war is what has caused him all this grief.
Since elements of the FMLN were linked to violent acts during the fight to overthrow a government that was committing genocide at the time, that was enough to exclude Figueroa under broad new anti-terrorism guidelines imposed in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.
Figuereroa has ran a very public campaign to fight the ruling to deport him and has found support from around the world and from Langley MP Mark Warawa and other federal ministers. Two weeks ago, Newton-North Delta NDP MP Jinny Sims, immigration opposition critic, presented petitions in Parliament and brought Figueroa’s case up in question period. His role with the FMLN was never violent and Immigration Canada recognizes that.
He and his wife applied for permanent residence status in 2002, under compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
In April, 11 years after they applied, Immigration Canada responded, denying him permanent residence status. The refusal has been a huge blow for the Figueroas.
“We are stressed, the whole family is stressed,” he said.
The immigration case manager not only denied him permanent residency but went further and denied him temporary status, should he try and request that, which he hasn’t.
Karine Roy-Tremblay, Immigration Canada’s director of case determination, said it was perfectly reasonable for him to be able to parent his children from El Salvador, saying that his wife could bring the kids there for visits.
She also suggested he could parent through Skype-type technology using a computer.
“This, she said, would be in the best interest of my children? And how would we afford to fly my family to El Salvador?”
Information Roy-Tremblay used was outdated, he said. The report she based her decision on said his mother lived in the U.S. She passed away in 2010.
Of his three children, Jose Ivan is 16, Esmeralda is nine and Ruby is six. Jose Ivan was diagnosed with autism in 2002. His wife quit working then, dedicating her time to supporting her son.
Jose pleaded that his son would not do well at all living without his father. Roy-Tremblay felt Jose Jr. would “continue to progress and succeed” just fine if Jose was deported.
She goes on to blame their impending family separation on the “personal choices that were made by Mr. Figueroa in his past.”
“Balancing against the best interests of the children and Mr. Figueroa’s establishment in Canada, I give significant weight to the government of Canada’s commitment to not provide safe-haven for those who have been members of terrorist organizations,” she wrote.
The legal bills are mounting, and once most of this push is through, their fees will topple $28,000. It’s money the family just doesn’t have.
His church and members of the We Are Jose group held a well-attended fundraiser for him at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church on May 25. More than 140 turned out and nearly $2,000 was raised.
Across the country, singer/songwriter Robert Graham hosted another fundraising event for Figueroa in Toronto. He also wrote a song about his plight. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CRlb3I9jRc.