Langley father of three José Figueroa is now in day five living in sanctuary at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, after he learned that an order had gone out to deport him back to El Salvador.
The Canadian Border Services Agency has issued an arrest warrant and Figueroa believes he has seen officers parked in the church parking lot, he said on Monday.
A prayer meeting was held last Thursday with numerous people showing up to support Figueroa, who is married with two daughters and an autistic son, all born at Langley Memorial Hospital.
“My heart goes out to the Figueroa family. I want to keep the family together but it doesn’t look hopeful,” said Langley MP Mark Warawa, who has been trying to see if Immigration Canada’s decision can be reversed.
He even spoke with the new Minister of Public Safety last week, in hopes the minister, who has the power to grant relief, would make an order to change the deportation decision.
“The decision has been made and José will have to go,” said Warawa on Monday.
Warawa could not explain why his government would deport Figueroa based on his past affiliation with a group which is now the democratically elected government of El Salvador.
“Under these same immigration policies, Nelson Mandela would not be accepted into our country either,” pointed out Warawa.
Warawa said Figueroa poses no risk to Canadians and is a benefit to society, working all these years to provide for his family.
If Figueroa is forcibly deported, his wife, who has been granted permanent residency status, will have to raise their young children by herself. The Figueroas came here legally 16 years ago and have been trying to stay ever since.
“What has really gone wrong here is that they had to wait 16 years for appeals to be heard. In that time, they had children and have a life here. Lengthy appeals are no longer happening under the new immigration policy,” said Warawa.
In spring, Immigration Canada denied him permanent residency status because of his involvement as a student in El Salvador with the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) during the civil war.
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.
The FMLN are not on any terrorist lists in Canada and there is an El Salvador embassy in Ottawa, Warawa points out.
“But the end result is the regulations require he not be acceptable in Canada,” said Warawa.
His case manager even indicated that he could parent his three children using Skype on the computer.
His role with the FMLN was never violent and Immigration Canada recognizes that.
Numerous people, including his church pastor, have been supporting Figueroa in his cause to stay in Canada, including José Jr.’s teacher.
People from all over Canada have been involved in the ‘We are José’ campaign, and musicians and documentary makers have publicized his case.