Jose Figueroa’s case, besides causing hardships for himself and his family, presents a number of potential problems for many other Canadians. Firstly, Jose’s case bears implications for the large Salvadoran Canadian community. Leaving the topic of country of origin aside, though, Jose’s case also presents implications for others going through the immigration process, and even for Canadian citizens more generally.
For other Salvadoran Canadians, Jose’s case is a troubling turn of events. What is especially unsettling about Jose’s story is that he did not withhold his participation in the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN), and his speaking out against the brutally repressive regime in El Salvador upon moving to Canada. In fact, this membership was a central part of his original refugee claim. Only now, after living more than ten years in his community of Langley, B.C. and having fathered three Canadian born children, is he being asked to leave the country he now calls home due to his non-violent actions as a university student two decades ago. What’s more, the organization that Jose took part in during the Salvadoran civil war, the FMLN, now forms the democratically elected and internationally recognized government in El Salvador.
Jose’s case sends a daunting message to Salvadoran Canadians: that their status as Canadian citizens is neither stable nor meaningful. If the Canadian government was able to commit such a grievous mistake as to ask for Jose’s deportation, there is no reason to think that a similar misunderstanding could not repeat itself with fellow Salvadoran Canadians, regardless of their familial situation in Canada or the extent to which returning to El Salvador might harm their well-being.
For other, non-Salvadoran people going through the immigration process, Jose’s case holds serious implications as well. Jose’s participation in the resistance against the former authoritarian regime in El Salvador was not violent, nor did he commit any acts deemed as violent or subversive while living here in Canada. Does this mean that anyone who has spoken out against a violent or repressive state prior to his or her coming to Canada is eligible for deportation? While this is most likely untrue, Jose’s case highlights the uncertainty that nonetheless surrounds immigration and refugee application to Canada.
Finally, Jose’s deportation is significant in that it arguably goes against Canadian values. We are a country that views civil liberties and democracy as matters of the utmost importance and worth. The deportation of Jose Figueroa, who lobbied against a repressive authoritarian regime and for a democratic alternative in a non-violent manner, does not seem to be cohesive with Canadian values. As Canadians, we should stand by these values instead of neglecting them and allowing a grave misunderstanding that may define our immigration policy.
-written by Julia Malmo