Migrant justice network Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), a QPIRG Concordia working group, announced recently that significant inroads have been made in two immigration cases that they have been fighting for.
Sami Sheikh, a 24-year-old resident of Parc Extension, who was facing deportation due to an error his parents made on their declaration when they first arrived in Canada 12 years ago, learned in January that he has been approved in principle for permanent residency.
Sheikh’s parents were deported to the U.S. in 2009 after being denied refugee status. The family feared threats from members of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, due to Sheikh’s father’s involvement in the Pakistan People’s Party, a centre-left political party that was headed by Benazir Bhutto until her death in 2007. Their claim was rejected because they had not declared living in Dubai for twenty years prior to moving to Canada.
“We were able to separate [Sheikh’s] case from the rest of his family because he was now an adult, so he was able to make a claim separately,” Jaggi Singh, an organizer with SAB and No One is Illegal, told The Daily in a phone interview.
The Ghotra-Singh family, who have been in Canada for more than ten years, were told that they were being deported after their refugee claims were denied. On January 15, after their lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, presented a motion to suspend the deportation order to the Federal Court, they received a stay of deportation, meaning they would be able to stay in Canada for a few months longer while a judicial review is carried out on their case.
Reetu Ghotra, who arrived in Canada in 2001, and her husband, Shimbi Singh, who arrived in 2002, filed for refugee status after Ghotra’s father, who spurned their marriage, threatened her husband.
“He could have killed the guy. He was telling him, you keep away from my daughter, or you’re going to die,” Istvanffy told CTV in January.
According to a press release published by SAB, Kamal – one of Ghotra and Singh’s two children – attends a class for special needs children as he has a severe language disorder and Global Developmental Delay; attending school in another language would be impossible for him.
The Ghotra-Singhs were only given a month’s notice to leave the country after they were served their deportation papers. Their stay of deportation means there is hope that their refugee claim might be successful in the future.
However, Jaggi Singh told The Daily that SAB is wary of being too optimistic. “It’s about the fight,” he told The Daily. “The point for us is the struggle. We try to avoid the success failure dynamic…It’s about avoiding this case-by-case dynamic and having an ongoing comprehensive regularization program for all non-status folks who are living in Canada,” he said.
SAB also argues that the Canadian economy is built on migrant labour.
“[Migrants] are here without full status which makes it easier for them to be exploited in the workplace. That’s not something that is just by chance, it is a deliberate outcome of [the government’s] policies – to create an immense pool of people who are easily exploited,” according to Jaggi Singh.
SAB, through programs such as Solidarity City, tries to help immigrants feel less isolated, and more part of the local community. This has helped in cases such as Sheikh’s to garner support from local political figures.
“We made a point that there was community support. In the end, all of the political figures in the neighbourhood came out and supported him,” Jaggi Singh said.
Sheikh was thankful that the community rallied around him. “It’s because of their support that I received this positive response,” he said during a meeting with supporters in Parc Extension last month.