South Korean family fights to return to Alberta town they now call home
A family living in Olds, Alta., is set to travel back to South Korea Friday after receiving an order to leave Canada over what they claim is a misunderstanding regarding work permits.
Jimmy Jeong moved to Canada at the start of 2017 through the temporary foreign worker program. His wife Chloe Seol, as well as their two kids, joined him this past summer.
However, the family was ordered to leave the country after they were given an exclusion order from the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) in November. It happened as Jeong attempted to secure a work permit for Seol at a border crossing in southern Alberta.
“This officer was doing her job of course, she was asking me questions about my work permit and my work status and my job duties,” Jeong said in an interview Thursday.
“The problem happened when she decided to talk to my employer to verify my statements.”
Jeong said his employer is not fluent in English and gave incorrect information to the border officer, who then decided he was not eligible to hold the work permit that he had.
“The reason… Canada Border Services has given is that [Jeong and Seol] want to be immigrants, permanent residents to Canada, and they didn’t have a permanent resident visa when they were at the port of entry,” Rekha McNutt, the family’s immigration lawyer, explained in an interview.
“But really all they were there to ask for was a work permit for the wife.”
A statement from the CBSA said “the decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” and “everyone ordered removed from Canada is entitled to due process before the law.”
“All removal orders are subject to various levels of appeal,” the statement read.
“Once individuals have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal [and] due process, they are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada or be removed.”
McNutt said she plans to appeal the decision, however the process can take months and border officials have not been willing to suspend the family’s departure from Canada while that happens. She called the decision to give the exclusion order in the first place “curious” and “troubling.”
“The questioning began with what the nature of his work was, rather than are you choosing to immigrate,” McNutt said.
“I think there are good grounds to fight this particular case.”
Some neighbours of Jeong have started a GoFundMe page in an effort to help the family pay its legal fees.
“We love them. They’re family and we had to do this for them,” Robert Clarke, a neighbour of the family, said Thursday.
“These are people we want in our community. We want them living with us.”
Jeong said his family will support him in South Korea while they appeal the decision. He hopes the Canadian government takes action to reverse the order.
“Canada is about family values and people are very open to immigrants,” Jeong said.
“We are so happy to live in Olds right now because the whole community is helping us however they can to get through this situation.”
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