A Moosomin family facing deportation to Honduras has now been given a date on which they must leave the country—Wednesday, July 5.
The Santos family had previously been told that the deportation would take place after their kids were done school for the year—between July 1 and July 10.
Last week they were given the date of July 5 to be on the plane back to Honduras.
Victor Santos, his wife Lesi Hernandez and their son Victor fled to Canada fearing for their lives and claimed refugee status in 2011.
Since then, another son has been born, Edward, who is a Canadian citizen, and is in kindergarten at MacLeod Elementary School.
Victor had witnessed the murder of a journalist in Honduras. He was followed and received death threats, and believed his life was in danger.
When the family fled to Canada, they initially lived in Toronto, and have lived in Moosomin for the last two and a half years, where Victor works at Denray Tire and Lesi works at Borderland Co-op.
Their refugee application has been denied.
The youngest son, Edward, is not subject to the removal order because he is a Canadian citizen, but the family feels they have no choice but to take him with them to Honduras if the deportation is carried out.
They fear for what might happen if they are deported to Honduras.
Victor’s situation is not unique in the violent country.
According to Amnesty International’s 2016-2017 report on Honduras, “Widespread violence across the country forced many to flee. People perceived by criminal gangs to have refused to comply with their authority or who had witnessed a crime were routinely harassed, attacked and extorted.”
According to Amnesty International, refugee claimants returned to the country are in danger.
“Deportees forcibly returned from Mexico and the USA continued to face the same life threatening situations which initially pushed them to leave,” according to Amnesty International. “In July, an asylum-seeker who had been forcibly returned from Mexico after the rejection of his asylum application was murdered less than three weeks after his return.”
There are no legal appeals left for the Santos family on their refugee claim, but they have submitted a separate application to be granted Canadian residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
They are hoping Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale will stay their deportation so they can remain in Canada until their new application is reviewed.
Souris-Moose Mountain MP Robert Kitchen has spoken with Goodale about the case.
Jason Schenn is general manager of Borderland Co-op, where Lesi works.
He said she is a model employee.
“She’s great to have there. She’s a model employee, she does really good work, and the staff love her, and customers like her. She’s what you’re looking for as an employee,” he says.
He says he finds it very frustrating to see his employee in this situation.
“It’s incredibly frustrating. They’ve been here a while. They’ve gone through all the hoops that they have to go through, and to still get denied on it for what seems to be not a good reason—I don’t know how else to put it other than it’s frustrating. How they can do that to somebody is just ridiculous.”
He said he’s hoping Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale comes through and stays the deportation.
“I know Andrew Stacey, her manager, he’s done a lot of work trying to help and get things going, along with Russell (Slugoski) and the others, trying to find some ways to make something happen, but it’s just all dead ends.”
“It seems until the media picks it up and starts making a big deal about it, no one wants to even talk about it. I’m hopeful now that this is getting some attention, that will embarrass the politicians into doing the right thing.”
Dan Chicoine runs Denray Tire in Moosomin. He says Victor is a great employee.
“He’s outstanding,” he said. “He’s very loyal. He’s always here before work. He’s very pleasant to deal with. He’s always friendly, always obliging—just an outstanding employee. Guys like that are hard to find. And they have become friends of ours too.”
Chicoine says he can’t believe that his friend and employee might be forced to return to the violence of Honduras. “I don’t agree with any of it,” he said. “They should be able to stay here. They’ve done very well. They’re part of the community. The children are definitely part of the community. They’re looking after themselves, they’re paying their own way, they’re doing fine. I think everyone likes them. We had Victor Junior with us camping and quadding at St. Lazare. Jeez, he was well behaved, holy cow. He’s a very polite, very well-mannered boy. There should be a few more kids like that around.”
He says he has tried to do everything he can to help the family.
“We’ve tried what we can do here, as an employer. We helped out with the petition, and any time he needed off, we let him take it.”
Chicoine said he is hopeful that Ralph Goodale will stay the removal order and allow the family to stay in Canada.
“I sure hope he can do something so they can stay. A couple of us have already sent emails in to Goodale. We sure hope it turns out so they can stay. I try to think positive about it.”
Story getting attention
“There has been a lot of media attention this week,” family friend Russell Slugoski said Thursday. “The World-Spectator opened it up to the world. From my perspective, having the media attention has helped a lot. The story has got out there, there have been radio interviews, people are becoming aware of it. The reaction I have had is all support. I haven’t had a negative comment from anybody. People are behind us on this. I got calls from people from Alberta, from Montreal who read the story. Yvonne heard from someone from Nova Scotia.”
Lesi says she is hearing a lot of supportive messages for her and her family.
“Everyone is telling us they support us,” she said. “People tell us they are praying for us, they are positive, they are hoping everything will be okay.”
Fundraiser this Thursday
A fundraising lunch is planned for the family this Thursday, June 22 at the Legion Hall.
Funds raised will help with the family’s legal costs.
The fundraising lunch will run from 11 am to 2 pm Thursday at the Moosomin Legion.
Admission is $10 per plate and donations are also welcomed.
On Wednesday, the family’s lawyer filed a request to the Federal Court of Canada for a review of the case, and there are ongoing legal fees.
How can people help?
People can contact Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale at email@example.com and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a copy of the email to email@example.com so the local committee can track the number of messages going to the ministers.
Lesi said letters of support can also be provided to help with the application for residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Letters can be given to the family to be included with the application.
Letters from family members or friends must include their home address and proof of that address (bill, lease or ID); be signed by the author; and be accompanied by a photocopy of the author’s photo ID, preferably a proof of permanent residence or citizenship in Canada.
“Some people are asking me what kind of support do you need now. I tell them to write a letter,” she says. “We have some that we have sent to them already, but more would be better.”
Slugoski said he doesn’t think most Canadians comprehend the level of violence in a country like Honduras.
“We don’t appreciate and fully understand what’s going on in the countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and the other Central American countries,” he said. “It’s very distressing, because lots of people are leaving those countries because of the risk to their well being. I don’t know if it’s just gangsterism or drug lords or politics. There’s no way to really identify the specific group that is causing difficulties for families out there.
“Victor and Lesi are just a family of innocent people who got caught up in something. Something as simple as witnessing a killing has turned their life upside down. It’s not the same here. If it had happened in Canada, they would make a police report, you might be asked to be a witness and confirm the tragic event, and that would be it. You wouldn’t be threatened or live your life in fear or worry about your family because of what you happened to see.”
The family and their supporters remain optimistic they will be allowed to stay.
“Time is closing in on us but we’re still optimistic,” said Slugoski.