A multi-year fight between Jose Figueroa and the Canadian government could soon be decided in federal court in Victoria.
The Langley man spent years fighting a Canadian Border Services Agency decision that has labelled him a terrorist. He received a permanent resident card in 2016 but is still battling to have the federal government formally recognize that he or the FMLN (the current government of El Salvador) is not on any Canadian list of terrorists. His affiliation with the FMLN, a group fighting the violent dictatorship in El Salvador during the civil war in the 1980s, was what caused the Canadian government to deport him after 16 years of living in Canada.
Figueroa’s battle started in 2010 when Canadian Immigration decided that Figueroa was inadmissible to Canada based on his connection to a group that opposed a repressive dictatorship in his native El Salvador. At the time, he’d been living in Canada for over 13 years with his wife and children.
The decision led to an arrest warrant from the Canadian Border Service Agency to be issued in September 2013. That warrant drove Figueroa to hide out in the Langley Walnut Grove Lutheran church for over two years until John McCallum, the new federal immigration minister, overturned the decision that made Figueroa a fugitive in his own city.
1997: Figueroa and his wife flee El Salvador, fearing for their safety. They come to Canada and claim refugee status. Over the next several years, they work and have three children.
2009: The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front is voted into power in El Salvador, ushering a new era of democracy.
May 2010: The Immigration and Refugee Board determines Figueroa cannot be admitted to Canada, arguing that he is a threat to national security because he worked with a student group that had ties to the revolutionary national liberation front in the 1980s. A deportation order is issued.
January 2011: Supporters launch a campaign called “We are Jose,” encouraging the federal government to overturn the deportation order. The campaign gains support from MPs, academics, student groups, the vice-president of the Salvadoran National Assembly and actor Martin Sheen. Several successive immigration ministers refuse to grant Figueroa’s application for relief.
October 2013: A warrant is issued for Figueroa’s arrest and deportation, prompting him to seek sanctuary in a church in Langley, B.C.
July 2015: A Federal Court judge grants Figueroa a judicial review.
December 2015: Immigration Minister John McCallum grants Figueroa an exemption on compassionate grounds, allowing him to stay in Canada with his family. He leaves the church for the first time in more than two years on his 49th birthday.
November 2016: Figueroa plans to appear before the Federal Court and argue to have his name cleared. He says that although he is now a permanent resident in Canada, the border services agency still has a deportation order against him and an eight-year-old report alleging he has links to terrorism.
– with files from Canadian Press