A New Westminster family is facing deportation to a dangerous situation in Mexico as they wait for their residency applications to be approved.
Adriana Rosales Contreras and her husband Alberto fled to Canada nearly 13 years ago after the two received death threats for refusing to collaborate with a criminal organization. They say the Canada Border Services Agency agent who reviewed their refugee claim agreed they faced a risk to their lives, but said there were too many people leaving Mexico in similar circumstances to allow them all.
He denied their claim, but the two stayed in Canada, had their daughter and continued to try and find a path to residency.
Things escalated on Nov. 30, 2021, according to Omar Chu, a member of grassroots community group Sanctuary Health and an advocate for the Contreras.
That morning, he said Adriana dropped her daughter off at kindergarten class at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School. When she left, she was followed by members of the Canada Border Services Agency into any alley where they handcuffed and arrested her, according to Chu.
The New Westminster School District is the only one in B.C. to have a Sanctuary Schools Policy, which stops border services from entering schools themselves, but doesn’t prevent them from taking action off school grounds.
Adriana was allowed to go home, but the deportation process was started and the family now faces a July 8 removal date. They applied for residency on humanitarian compassionate grounds and for temporary residency in August 2021, but say the process has been delayed and they don’t know if their requests will go through in time.
On Monday (May 9), dozens of community members gathered outside Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School to call on the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to grant the family residency.
“We want Canada to let us stay home and continue to contribute meaningfully to our community,” Alberto said speaking at the rally. “We came to this country like many migrants, looking for new opportunities and a better quality of life. We want what is what is best for our daughter.”
A good friend of Adriana’s shed tears as she spoke about her.
“She’s the kind of friend who’s always gonna be there for you, no matter what it takes. She creates a community,” Elsa Sanchez said.
A young member of the community also braved the stage to speak up for the Contreras.
“I’m a kid, and it’s kind of scary…” nine-year-old Clara Efting said. “They have friends, they have family. They’re just regular people living here…”
New Westminster councillor Chinu Das was one of several speakers who expressed frustration at the government choosing to accept thousands of Ukrainian refugees on humanitarian grounds, but not doing the same for one family from Mexico.
Others said the Canada Border Services Agency’s actions contradict everything the school community stands for.
“This has shattered the safety that we have worked so hard to establish,” Maya Russell, a trustee with the school district, said.
For its part, the Canada Border Services Agency said it can’t comment on specific cases. In a statement, it said it has “a legal obligation to remove all foreign nationals and permanent residents that are inadmissible to Canada.” It said it only issues a removal order after all other legal avenues have been pursued.
Nine-year-old Clara Efting spoke up at the event, saying she thinks it’s unfair the family is forced to leave their life behind. pic.twitter.com/Wlbj0cvgRk— Jane Skrypnek (@janeskrypnek) May 10, 2022