‘You are in dan­ger of be­ing caught’

Metro meets asy­lum-seek­ers from Trump’s amer­ica, as b.C. joins other prov­inces see­ing a refugee in­flux

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - NEWS | VANCOUVER - Jen St. De­nis

“You have to run. You run in dan­ger of be­ing caught,” ex­plained seven-months-preg­nant Car­men, re­call­ing how she and her spouse Juan came to B.C. by foot last week. “It was dark, there was a lot of snow; it was re­ally cold.”

Af­ter a har­row­ing jour­ney through Gu­atemala and Mex­ico to es­cape ter­ri­fy­ing threats from crim­i­nal gangs in their home coun­try of Hon­duras, the cou­ple and their now 11-year-old son José had found a good life in Bos­ton.

But ev­ery­thing changed af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump.

“Ev­ery­thing was go­ing fine un­til Pres­i­dent Trump was elected,” said Juan, speak­ing through a trans­la­tor in a Van­cou­ver of­fice (Metro agreed, for their safety, only to re­veal the cou­ple’s given names). “Don­ald Trump said, ‘When I’m the pres­i­dent, I’m go­ing to (de­port) so many mil­lions of peo­ple.’”

Trump re­cently signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that aims to put some of his cam­paign prom­ises into ef­fect: dep­u­tiz­ing law en­force­ment of­fi­cers as im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials, threat­en­ing to cut fed­eral fund­ing to so-called “sanc­tu­ary cities” and build­ing more de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties (as well as the in­fa­mous wall) along the Unites States-Mex­ico bor­der.

Juan and Car­men’s fear of de­por­ta­tion was height­ened be­cause Car­men is preg­nant, her baby due in April. It’s not un­com­mon in the United States for ba­bies born in the coun­try — and there­fore Amer­i­can cit­i­zens — to be al­lowed to stay in the coun­try in the care of friends or rel­a­tives while the par­ents are de­ported.

And the cou­ple says they fear for their lives should they be de­ported back to Hon­duras: they say they will be tar­geted by the same crim­i­nal gangs who threat­ened to kill them be­fore, be­cause Car­men could no longer af­ford to pay a “war tax” on the house she owned.

Juan and Car­men chose Bri­tish Columbia be­cause they had heard it was a nice place with a lot of job op­por­tu­ni­ties. One night just over a week ago, the fam­ily crossed over a snowy field be­tween the Wash­ing­ton and B.C. bor­der.

Mi­grant sup­port work­ers in the Lower Main­land have heard many sto­ries like Juan and Car­men’s lately. Just like the more well-known refugee claimants who have made their way to Emer­son, Man., they’re spurred by a fear of the new pres­i­dent. Juan and Car­men plan to start their Cana­dian refugee claim in the next few days. But By­ron Cruz, a nurse with Sanc­tu­ary Health, says that when peo­ple call him from the United States, he tells them not to come to Canada.

He says they’re safer in one of the United States’ sanc­tu­ary cities: cities that have poli­cies in place to en­sure un­doc­u­mented mi­grants have ac­cess to city ser­vices, and do not use mu­nic­i­pal funds or re­sources to en­force fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion laws. While Canada’s com­mit­ment to open im­mi­gra­tion and refugee ac­cep­tance has been widely re­ported in Amer­i­can me­dia, Cruz says that with­out more ac­tion, it’s just words.

“Canada is not a safe coun­try to come,” Cruz said. Van­cou­ver is not yet a Sanc­tu­ary City, he said, re­fer­ring to poli­cies adopted by the city. “It’s not enough. Peo­ple are not safe here be­cause po­lice re­port to im­mi­gra­tion. In those Sanc­tu­ary Cities in the United States, the po­lice do not re­port to im­mi­gra­tion.”

Cruz added that not all school dis­tricts in B.C. ac­cept the chil­dren of un­doc­u­mented mi­grants, a sit­u­a­tion that has led to some chil­dren be­ing re­moved from school.

ev­ery­thing was go­ing fine un­til Pres­i­dent trump was elected. Juan, a Hon­duran who fled Cen­tral Amer­ica for the U.S. be­fore flee­ing the States for Canada

Jen St. De­niS/Metro

Re­cently ar­rived in B.C., Hon­duran asy­lum-seek­ers Juan and Car­men, fore­ground, speak with im­mi­grant and refugee ad­vo­cates in down­town Van­cou­ver on Fri­day. Metro agreed to not pho­to­graph the refugee claimants’ faces be­cause of threats they re­ceived back home.

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