Friends and supporters rally for BC family facing deportation to Mexico

Parents at an elementary school in New Westminster, British Columbia, came together Monday night to show their support for a family of students who are facing deportation to Mexico.

Adriana Rosales Contreras and her husband, Alberto Vargas Mendez, arrived in Canada 13 years ago as asylum seekers fearing for their lives, according to their immigration lawyer, Amanda Aziz.

On November 30, Rosales Contreras was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency after dropping off her daughter at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School, said Omar Chu of migrant advocacy group Sanctuary Health.

Rosales Contreras was released shortly thereafter, but deportation proceedings are ongoing.

Chu said the CBSA is continuing the removal process for Rosales Contreras and her husband, despite the fact that they have applications for permanent residency and temporary resident permits pending.

Rosales Contreras and Vargas Mendez face deportation to Mexico after living in Canada for more than a decade. A group of supporters tries to convince the CBSA and the Minister of Immigration to let them stay in Canada. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Aziz says the application process does not stop a removal proceeding and the couple were asked to leave Canada in early July. If they are deported, they will take their Canadian-born daughter with them.

Supporters of the couple are calling on Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to ensure their applications are processed and approved before the removal date.

At their first refugee hearing, the board found the couple faced a real risk in Mexico, but did not grant their asylum claim.

Supporters gathered outside Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in New Westminster on Monday night. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

“What they were fleeing were very serious death threats and violence from organized crime groups, as well as the state’s failure to protect them,” Aziz said.

The couple had no legal representation at the time and were unsure how to navigate the appeals process, Aziz said. The couple, whose daughter has never been to Mexico, are trying to apply for permanent resident status.

The CBSA did not comment on the case citing confidentiality concerns, but said the agency has a legal obligation to remove foreign nationals who do not have legal status to remain in Canada.

People who are subject to enforcement action have access to due process, the agency said, and “those who are deported have exhausted or chosen not to pursue other legal remedies and have no rights. legal to stay in Canada”.

The New Westminster School District has a sanctuary school policy which aims to give school-aged children access to education without fear that their personal information will be shared with immigration authorities, regardless of their immigration status.

Chu said CBSA officers were monitoring the school and arrested Rosales Contreras after dropping her daughter off at school.

“We feel like this was a huge attack on sanctuary school policies,” he said.

Omar Chu of migrant advocacy group Sanctuary Health says CBSA officers watched Rosales Contreras and detained her after she dropped her daughter off at school. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

In its statement, the CBSA said “there are no legal restrictions preventing the CBSA from taking the necessary enforcement action outside of a school to execute an arrest warrant.”

Chu said the family is an integral part of the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they helped deliver food to families in need and volunteered at vaccination clinics.

“They shouldn’t be heroes,” Chu said. “The bar is not that high to be able to come here and seek safety in Canada. But they are. And that makes it all the more outrageous that we are in this position.”