José Figueroa will have to wait a little bit longer to know whether a decision to deport him will be sent back to Immigration for a new review.
The federal court in Vancouver was standing room only, packed with supporters of Figueroa and his family, while José listened in to the lengthy proceedings over the telephone.
Outside, dozens of people held up banners in support of the Langley father of three.
Figueroa sought sanctuary more than eight months ago, inside the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, after the Canadian Border Service Agency issued an arrest warrant for him, ordering that he be deported back to El Salvador.
Judge Richard Mosley reserved his decision about whether the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration must take another look at exempting Figueroa from deportation on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
“I feel optimistic,” said Figueroa’s wife, Ivana, after the hearing.
“I believe the judge will take into account our children in his decision.”
She said moving back to El Salvador is not an option and the family will continue to fight to stay in Canada — their home.
Figueroa’s lawyer Peter Edelmann argued that the original officer who denied Figueora permission to stay in Canada on compassionate grounds in 2010 didn’t have access to his entire file, which included two previous officers’ recommendations that he be able to stay in the country.
Both those immigration officers argued in 2002 and again in 2006 that his minimal affiliation with the FMLN wasn’t a security concern.
Edelmann argued that the deciding immigration officer “paid lip service” to the issues at hand, including the 12 years the case stood open and that three children were born in Canada in that time, one of whom is autistic.
At times, the judge struggled to understand the deciding officer’s decision to deny Figueroa an exemption.
“Is there any evidence the FMLN is a listed terror organization?” asked Mosley.
The lawyer for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Caroline Christiaens, replied ‘no.’
“The officer can’t simply say the FMLN is an organization that did terrorist attacks. The officer has to go beyond that to explain.”
Mosley then questioned whether Canada would find all 100,000 members of the FMLN inadmissible to the country. She replied that “parliament has decided no exemptions.”
Mosley noted that under those guidelines Nelson Mandela wouldn’t have been admissible to Canada, nor hundreds of thousands with him.
“The evidence suggests to me he is not a security risk nor a criminal,” said Mosley, addressing the reasons why Figueroa was denied an exemption.
It will be weeks before the judge makes a decision, said his lawyer. But he was pleased with how the proceedings went, he said afterward.