For the Figueroas, this will be a very different Christmas than any before it.
Instead of enjoying Christmas morning together in the home the family of five have shared for more than a decade, they will wake inside the sanctuary of their church.
In October, José Figueroa found sanctuary in the Walnut Grove Lutheran church as he continued his well-publicized fight against an attempt by immigration authorities to deport him to his native El Salvador.
An arrest warrant was issued by the Canadian Border Services Agency in early October for Figueroa, leading him to seek sanctuary. He’s been living there ever since, unable to leave the building for fear of being detained before his hearing, which set for Jan. 15.
Instead of the regular letters to Santa, his three young children wrote Christmas letters to the federal minister of citizenship and immigration, Chris Alexander.
Ruby, the youngest child of José and his wife, Ivania, wrote about the sadness and pain the family is experiencing.
“When families are not together it is a lot of pain and stress . . . please let my dad stay.”
Esmeralda wrote,” I hope you have a merry Christmas while you and your family are together while mine isn’t.”
Jose Jr., who has autism, writes that if his dad was deported it would make him “miserable.”
“My family is under a stressful situation without my dad supporting us. Without my dad around, I would be having problems coping with life. . . it would be great if you grant an exemption to stay in Canada.”
Figueora entered Canada legally 16 years ago and is raising his three Canadian-born children with his wife. But he was ordered deported from Canada for belonging to the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a group linked to violent acts against the regime that ruled the country during the civil war from 1980 to 1992, even though the FMLN went on to win a nonviolent and democratic election that saw them formally recognized by the government of Canada.
He has found the support of Langley MP Mark Warawa, several other MPs who have spoke for him in the House of Commons. He also has the support of many across the world, many in Toronto, who often stage rallies in support of “We are Jose.”