Fear drives effort to stay: Mexicans

Posted by admin on Aug 27th, 2009

By CATHERINE SOLYOM, The Gazette, August 27, 2009

MONTREAL – The idea that two state police officers would kidnap a woman in broad daylight seems incredible – or rather not credible, in the language of the Immigration and Refugee Board – certainly not in sunny Mexico. But Santa Ramos Castro, 41, says it’s what she witnessed on her way to work three years ago, an incident that has turned her family’s life upside down, and has kept them living in fear as they face deportation to Mexico Thursday.

When the kidnapped woman’s body turned up in a garbage dump two weeks later – and the two men in black came after her – she knew she had to leave the country.

“They told me I had signed my own death warrant,” Ramos Castro recounted yesterday. “They tried to force their way into the house, so I ran out the back door.”

It was the first leg of a journey that would take Ramos Castro, followed by her husband and two children, then 4 and 18 years old, from Tehuacan, in the state of Puebla, all the way to Montreal.

They could soon be on their way back, however. Ramos Castro’s claim for refugee status, as well as her appeal to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds, were rejected earlier because of inconsistencies between her written declaration and her interview with an immigration agent – inconsistencies she blames on her so-called immigration consultant, who fell asleep during the hearing in February.

Why did she remember the widower’s full name at the hearing, but not at the interview? the IRB judge asked. Ramos Castro had contacted the woman’s husband when she saw a missing person’s report in the local newspaper.

Did she find out the woman had been murdered June 1 or June 6, 2006? An article in El Sol de Tehuacan on the gruesome discovery of the woman’s body, presented to the IRB, was dated June 1, 2006.

How did she know the two men in black were police officers? Such impunity on the part of police is commonplace – everyone knows it, Ramon Castro told The Gazette.

Amnesty International says as much in a letter sent to Prime Minister Harper on Tuesday, urging him to rescind the visa requirement for Mexicans imposed last month.

“Members of the military and police commit serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings, excessive use of force, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, and sexual violence,” the watchdog wrote.

None of this is news to Ramos Castro’s husband, Gerardo Con

treras Tobon. After his wife fled the country, he said he became the target of death threats by police, who intercepted him while driving home from work and beat him up in front of his youngest son, all the while asking him where his wife was.

It’s especially for Emanuelle, now 7, that the couple is hoping for a last-minute stay of their deportation so they can remain in Canada. The boy is afraid of everything, they said, especially of his father being beaten up again in Mexico.

“We are a peaceful, hard-working family,” said Contreras Tobon, who managed a string of gas stations in Puebla. “We had no reason to come here. Things were going really well for us until my wife happened to see something.”

The family has the support of Amnesty International, which in a letter to the Canada Border Services Agency asks why Contreras Tobon, having stayed in the same apartment for 10 years, chose to move five times prior to his departure for Canada, unless he was truly afraid.

They also have the backing of friends and colleagues of Ramos Santos, who now does the cleaning at the Outremont public library. They are trying to find a way to collectively sponsor the family.

“But we need more time,” Ramos Castro said. “That’s all we want.”

Barring a last-minute stay by the federal immigration minister, they have until 5:30 a.m. tomorrow.

A CSBA spokesperson said if they don’t show up at Pierre Elliott International Airport at that time, an arrest warrant would likely follow.

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