A family of seven, including two small children, that was set for deportation to Colombia on Christmas Eve will be allowed to remain in Canada, Global News has learned.
The Montoyas, who were scheduled for removal by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), received an email from the government Monday afternoon saying Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen had intervened on their behalf, granting them temporary residency and working permits in Canada for the next 18 months.
Hussen’s intervention also gives Canadian immigration officials time to hear the family’s pending applications to remain in Canada on a permanent basis.
“I feel great. I think I’ve never felt so happy. That news really made my morning, my holidays and my life,” said Luisa Montoya, 26, who along with her entire family was scheduled for deportation to Colombia on Christmas Eve.
“It’s what we were hoping for, but we were really scared,” she said.
Hussen’s decision follows a Global News story about the Montoyas’ pending deportation published last Wednesday.
Read by more than 350,000 people, the story earned significant public attention, including letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and a petition to keep the family in Canada started by Toronto radio-host Ryan Doyle that received more than 1,200 signatures.
WATCH: ‘I was devastated,’ Woman explains her family’s struggle to stay in Canada
Luisa says her family is incredibly grateful to Hussen’s office for looking at them “as people, not as a number.” She’s also grateful for the outpouring of support they received from people across the country after their story was first shared.
“It’s unbelievable how many good people are in this country and how they felt for us,” she said.
“People reached out to us from everywhere – most of them just to give us their support,” she said. “It was really helpful for our mental health as well to see that people actually believed in us.”
After coming to Canada in 2012, the Montoyas made a claim for asylum. But because of government delays and a backlog of more than 32,000 cases at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), it took more than five years for officials to hear their claim.
Although their claim was denied – due in part because the IRB says conditions in Colombia have improved since 2012 – the family argued that it was unfair for them to be deported because they’d made Canada their home, started several small businesses and purchased property.
Luisa also married a Canadian in 2017, while her brother Camilo and his wife Bettsy had a child born in Toronto – three-year-old Thomas – who is a Canadian citizen.
The family has humanitarian and spousal applications pending with immigration officials. Hussen’s decision means these claims can be processed while the family remains in Canada.
For Luisa, this decision means the family can rest easy, knowing they’ve been given more time and that they won’t be deported on Christmas Eve.
“We’re very thankful and we won’t let Canada down. We will continue to work hard to give back to this country everything this country has given to us,” she said. “We’ll for sure have a very, very happy Christmas.”