Jose Figueroa marks four years of facing deportation from Canada
WATCH ABOVE: A solidarity vigil is about to get underway in Langley tonight for a man who’s been fighting to stay in Canada for four years. Nearly a year and a half ago Jose Figueroa sought refuge in a Walnut Grove Church to avoid deportation. Leigh Kjekstad has more on his struggle.
Day after day, Jose Figueroa wakes up, logs onto his computer, and researches everything he can about Canadian immigration laws.
He doesn’t have many other alternatives. For the past 15 months, Figueroa has spent every hour in the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, given sanctuary while the Canadian government tries to deport him.
“It is so hard in the sense that I have lost my freedom,” says Figueroa. “I cannot even go through the door there. The only fresh air that I have is when the door opens and someone comes and visits.”
A vigil is being held tonight to support Figueroa, on the fourth anniversary of the ‘We Are Jose’ campaign that began when he was originally asked to leave the country. He moved from El Salvador to Canada with his family 18 years ago, but he was denied permanent residency because he was a student member the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an organization that was attempting to overthrow a violent military dictatorship in El Salvador.
The FMLN is now the democratically elected government in El Salvador, but Canada still classifies it as a terrorist organization. Figueroa says he only took part in peaceful protests.
“There are so many immigrants here in Canada are being abused by the system,” says Figueroa. They have made changes in the immigration law that are actually taking away the right of people to go to the federal court without being deported. Every Canadian should be looking at this.”
Figueroa entered the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley in 2013 after the Canadian Border Service Agency issued a warrant for his arrest. He’s been joined recently by the Juhasz family, a Hungarian family also facing deportation.
Immigration lawyer Douglas Cameron says that governments tend to respect sanctuary requests, but it doesn’t override immigration decisions.
“Essentially it’s an understanding that if someone has taken sanctuary and the church has taken responsibility in ensuring they will be taken care of, in most cases [authorities] will standby and wait. They are under a legitimate law to be deported and once they come out, unless some other arrangement has been made, they will be,” he says.
“[Churches] realize what they’re doing, they realize they’re stepping outside parliament’s law, and [parliament] does tend to respect that they have an important point to make.”
The Langley church – and Figueroa – plan to continue making that point.
“It is worth it,” says Figueroa.
– With files from Christine Tam
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