Child with Down’s syndrome facing deportation

Posted by admin on Mar 15th, 2008

Monday March 10 2008. By Roger Belgrave /Staff Writer

A Brampton couple and their two young children, one with Down’s syndrome, are scheduled for deportation next week and pleading with the federal government to reconsider the family’s expulsion. For the sake of their four-year-old Canadian-born son, Daniel and Veronica Carnales are asking Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley to intervene and exercise rarely used ministerial powers to stop their expulsion from Canada. The Carnales family, with sons Santiago, 11, and young Aaron, must leave the country by April 8. The Defence for Children International-Canada (DCI-Canada), Brampton-Springdale MP Ruby Dhalla and others in the community are rallying to the family’s aid. Petitions have collected more than 1,000 names.

DCI-Canada and the family held a news conference in Toronto Friday morning. Following that news conference, the justice department told The Guardian Canadian Border Services had issued a deferral of the family’s deportation. Now, the Carnales family has until April 8, at which time they must present themselves at the Canada-U.S. borderfor deportation. Prior to the news conference they were told to leave by March 13.

“They’ve been given what is basically a bit more time to pack,” said Matthew Geigen-Miller, DCI-Canada vice-president.

This is the second time the family has received a deportation postponement for a few weeks. It is taking an emotional toll on the children, especially Santiago who must say goodbye to friends each time.

“This is ridiculous. The deportation is still in effect,” Geigen-Miller noted. “The minister has still not responded.”

Geigen-Miller added this particular deferral, which requires them to report to the border instead of arranging their own departure, likely means the Carnales’s will be detained by U.S. authorities because they have no legal right to enter the country.

The family has been living in Brampton for almost four years and in Canada for seven years.

Carnales said he, his wife and eldest son came from Uruguay to Canada in January 2001. “I have family here,” he said.

They entered the country from the United States. Carnales said they spent just a few weeks in America.

The family said they applied to the Canadian government for refugee status after crossing the Canada-U.S. border and obtained work permits.

Carnales would not discuss the reason for the family’s original refugee claim. “Honestly, I don’t think that is relevant at this point,” he said. “It’s not about our situation. It’s not about my personal situation. It’s about the kids, especially the little one. So I don’t want to focus on why we applied (for refugee status).”

He believes the focus now is Aaron. His son, who was born in Canada, has Down’s syndrome. Carnales said the services and support available for his child in Uruguay are vastly inferior to those in Canada.

“As a special needs kid he is receiving a lot of help and treatment that is showing a huge progress in his development and he will have to stop all that overnight and those services are not available back home,” said Carnales.

Deportation would be especially devastating to Aaron, but is not in the best interest of ether child, he added. Santiago, the couple’s oldest son, was just four when they arrived in Canada and is for all intents and purposes a Canadian, Carnales suggested.

“He is socially and emotionally a Canadian child. He lives like a Canadian child. He plays hockey outside with the kids,” the 31-year-old father explained. “When we told him about the news- about the possibility of what is going to happen- he broke down in tears.”

The 11-year-old cannot understand why he is being forced to leave his home, school and friends.

Irma Maas, a teacher who taught Santiago in Grade 5 at Good Shepherd Catholic School, is one of those in the community offering the family support.

“He’s one of the more moral and kind students that we have here at Good Shepherd,” she said.

“He’s just an all-around great kid and he comes from a strong and supportive family. I really feel if Santiago had to leave the country we would be losing someone who could contribute greatly to our country and provide us with the diversity and good character that we desire.”

Petitions have collected about 1,300 signatures to date.

“I’m so thankful to everybody,” Carnales said.

Two years ago the family filed an application with the federal government to remain in the country under humanitarian grounds. This past January the family received official notification both the refugee claim and appeal on humanitarian grounds had been denied.

The government’s reason for denying the appeal may be faulty, Carnales believes. “I think that the decision has to be reviewed,” he insisted.

In the seven years it has taken to reach this point, the young family has laid down some deep roots in Canada and the Brampton community.

“These are people who have a house, they have a mortgage and everything. These are not people on welfare trying to stay in as long as they can,” said Geigen-Miller. “I mean they’ve really been established.”

DCI, founded in Switzerland in 1979, is a grassroots organization operating in 45 countries to promote and protect the rights of children. The organization believes this is an obvious case in which a deportation exemption should be allowed under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

After arriving in Canada, Carnales worked as a carpenter for in the construction industry for four years and has spent the last three years with a transportation company where he is currently a general manager.

One of the reasons the government denied the appeal to stay under humanitarian grounds is because there was no evidence of “establishment,” according to Carnales. “I am established in this country. Let me show you that. That is all we are asking.”

Dhalla has written to the minister asking for her intervention.

“I hope that the minister will intervene and ensure that the family can remain together and this young boy, Aaron, receives proper treatment,” said Dhalla.

Ministerial intervention is rarely used and its application on compassionate grounds in this case does not hurt the integrity of Canada’s immigration system, Dhalla believes.

There are few options left for the family. Carnales has written to the minister, but has received no reply, he said.

The Guardian contacted the minister’s office several times, but at press time had received no response to inquiries.

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