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Minister asked to halt deportation of New Westminster family

"Let them stay" — that's the simple plea at the heart of a slew of holiday cards heading to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

While people around the world are counting down the days until Christmas, one local family is facing a much grimmer countdown of their own: the number of days they have left in Canada.

Claudia Zamorano and her family — her husband Andres Liberato Bazan and their nine-year-old daughter Evangeline, plus Andres’ brother Isaias Liberato Bazan and mother Leticia Bazan Porto — are facing deportation to Mexico Dec. 19.

On Nov. 26, family, friends and community members turned out at St. James’ Anglican Church on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for a special event to support the family. The Saturday morning gathering saw more than 1,250 holiday cards collected to send to federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

The message on the cards was simple: "Let them stay."

The family has applied to stay in Canada as permanent residents on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, citing threats from organized crime should they return to Mexico.

But an effort to defer their deportation failed earlier this month.

Sanctuary Health, a grassroots migrant justice organization that’s been working on behalf of the family, said the family’s lawyer submitted a 945-page request to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) asking that their deportation be deferred until a decision is made on their application for permanent residency — an application that’s been in the works for more than a year.

The CBSA refused the request in less than 24 hours.

That leaves the plea to Fraser as the family’s remaining hope to avoid being deported six days before Christmas.

The Hospital Employees’ Union is speaking out on behalf of the family, noting Zamorano, as a housekeeper at Royal Columbian Hospital, has been on the front lines of care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At a time when our health-care system is in critical need of experienced health-care workers, we should not be turning away those who have contributed their skills and valuable experience to help protect Canadians,” said Betty Valenzuela, financial secretary of the Hospital Employees’ Union, in a press release. “Let Claudia and her family stay.”

The family fled Mexico in 2017; nine-year-old Evangeline — now a Grade 4 student in New Westminster — has only ever gone to school in Canada.

Ingrid Mendez, executive director of Watari Counselling and Support Services Society, where Leticia Bazan Porto volunteers, called for compassion from the federal government.

“Canada should uphold their reputation of being welcoming to refugees and migrants and keep Lety and her family here,” Mendez said.

Sanctuary Health is also conducting a letter-writing campaign in support of the family, with 1,859 letters sent as of this post.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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