Mexican journalist launches last-ditch bid to fight deportation

Posted by admin on Jan 17th, 2012

Stephanie Law, Globe and Mail Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 8:53PM EST

Mexican journalist Karla Berenice García Ramírez, her husband and her two young Canadian-born daughters, are fighting deportation from Canada – and, as they see it, for their lives. She and her husband fled to Canada from Mexico in 2008 after she and her family received death threats that had escalated from less threatening intimidation starting in 2003, the apparent result of her efforts to uncover corruption at a government ministry. She was working at the ministry at the time, but had previously been employed as a journalist.

The threats received by Ms. Ramírez and her family worsened after she launched a book, The Talent of the Charlatans, in Canada last October. Writing under the pseudonym Karla Lottini, she alleges corruption within Mexico’s cultural agencies, particularly in the National Council for Culture and the Arts (Conaculta) where she had worked.

“I am afraid for my life and for my daughters’ life,” she said. “But I’m much more afraid now than when I [first arrived], because the impunity is growing and growing and the corruption is growing and growing.”

Her refugee status application was rejected in 2010, and so was her subsequent pre-removal risk assessment application last November. The judgments concluded, among other things, that there wasn’t a significant risk of persecution in Mexico against a journalist who isn’t reporting on organized crime.

Now, Ms. Ramírez, 38, is applying for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and also for a judicial review of her pre-removal risk assessment.

“We’re arguing that in our view, the processor [of her pre-removal risk assessment] didn’t properly assess the risk to [Ms. Ramírez] and her family because there were so many new developments since her refugee claim rejection,” her lawyer Lobat Sadrehashemi said, referring to threats received after her book launched in Canada.

A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the agency could not comment on Ms. Ramirez’s case.

If those applications fail as well, she and her husband will face deportation, while her two Canadian-born daughters – 17 months and two months old – will have the right to stay behind. But Ms. Ramírez said she will bring them with her if she leaves.

Mexican refugee claimants like Ms. Ramírez have faced an average 10-per-cent success rate between 2007 and 2010, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board. There were approximately 5,326 refugee claims reviewed per year during that period.

Melissa Anderson, spokesperson for the board, said it cannot comment on Ms. Ramírez’s case specifically. But she later wrote in an e-mail that “[t]he acceptance rate of Mexican refugee protection claims has been historically low, rarely creeping above 25 per cent or dropping below 10 per cent. In the first three-quarters of 2011, the acceptance rate for claims from Mexico is 17 per cent. This is the highest it has been since 2006.”

Shane Molyneaux, another of Ms. Ramírez’s lawyers, said some refugee lawyers have found it harder in the past few years to be successful with Mexican claims. “She’s really deserving of protection, she’s been let down by the system so far, and there is solid evidence that someone with this profile is truly at risk,” he said.

Ms. Ramírez and her husband live in Surrey, B.C. While she is home with her baby now, she has been employed as a housekeeper in Canada and also done volunteer work in Vancouver and Surrey. Harsha Walia, a Vancouver-based refugee advocate with No One is Illegal, has been gathering local support for Ms. Ramírez.

“We have a situation which is representative of many cases of asylum seekers in Canada, where someone who is facing a real risk is deported,” Ms. Walia said. “This is someone who has greatly contributed to the Vancouver and Surrey communities and yet might be deported.”

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