Family faces deportation over son’s autism

Posted by admin on Jun 9th, 2011

Kenyon Wallace, Toronto Star, Jun. 9 2011

Since arriving in Canada from South Korea eight years ago, the Maengs have been model residents — they have built a successful business, are putting their kids through school and are paying their taxes. But all their hard work may have been for naught.

The family is facing deportation later this month because Citizenship and Immigration Canada has decided their 14-year-old autistic son will place an “excessive demand” on the country’s health and social services.

Tae-Shik Maeng, his wife Hee-Eun Jang, and sons Jung-Joo (John), 19, and Sung-Joo, 14, moved from Seoul to Moncton, N.B., in 2003, shortly after Sung-Joo was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy. The family believed the clean east-coast air would help improve the boy’s health.

John Maeng told the Star his family, which has owned the Main Stop Oriental Market on Moncton’s Main St. since 2005, was informed in a May 31 letter from Citizenship and Immigration that their application to extend their temporary resident permits had been denied. They now have until June 30 to leave the country.

“When we got the letter, I remember my mom came in crying,” said John Maeng, a first-year science student at Halifax’s Dalhousie University who hopes to become a dentist. “She didn’t want this to happen. She was devastated.”

He said his brother, who doesn’t speak but communicates by pointing at things, has improved since the family’s arrival in Canada thanks to the medical care he’s been receiving. But he fears his brother won’t get the same attention if the family is sent back to South Korea.

The Maengs’ story has touched a nerve in New Brunswick. Local newspapers are filled with angry letters to the editor, while members of the provincial legislature have written the family vowing to support them if the government grants them status.

A Facebook petition demanding Ottawa let the family stay has already garnered more than 6,000 signatures, while a planned protest at Moncton city hall on Sunday has already signed up more than 1,500 participants.

“This is the kind of family we want to welcome to Canada,” said Moncton East MLA Chris Collins. “They’ve been contributing to the New Brunswick economy, they are proud members of the community and their son wants to be dentist. To deny them the chance to stay is, in my opinion, un-Canadian.”

The family’s lawyer, Nicole Druckman, has enlisted the help of Conservative MP Robert Goguen to raise the issue in Ottawa and is hopeful for a resolution.

“Public, political and media support has been phenomenal,” Druckman told the Star. “We are hopeful that the impact will not only allow the Maeng family to stay in Canada, but change the inconsistencies within our immigration system.”

When asked about the Maeng family’s plight in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said people can be barred from staying in the country if they “represent an undue burden to our tax-funded public health-care system.”

The Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Act states “a foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

Citizenship and Immigration spokesman Jon Stone said an “excessive demand” determination is based on the estimated costs of the health and social services requirements of the person over a five- or 10-year period.

“If those costs are determined to exceed the average annual per capita Canadian health and social expenditures … then an applicant is deemed inadmissible on excessive demand grounds,” he said.

Last year, about 0.2 per cent of permanent residency applicants were deemed inadmissible because they would pose an excessive demand on the provincial health-care system, he said.

That’s cold comfort for the Maengs, who can do nothing but wait. But they are hopeful.

“Everyday we’ve been getting positive news, which has really helped our family,” John Maeng said. “We are also touched with the public and political support. This is all very overwhelming.”

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