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New Westminster school board backs local family fighting deportation to Mexico

Canada Border Services Agency officers apprehended a Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School mom on the street in November.
CBSA deportation rally
New Westminster residents rallied in December in support of a local family facing deportation to Mexico, after a mother was apprehended by CBSA officers on the street near her daughter's school. The New West school board is continuing to advocate for the family as they fight to stay in Canada.

New Westminster school trustees are keeping the pressure on in the fight to stop the deportation of a local family, after Canada Border Services Agency officers apprehended the mother in November.

Trustee Maya Russell said the ordeal has been “heartbreaking and terrifying” for the family.

On Nov. 30, CBSA officers detained the woman in an alley near her home, shortly after she dropped her child off for kindergarten at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School.

Sanctuary Health, an organization that supports people with precarious immigration status, has now launched a letter campaign in support of the woman and her husband. The couple has lived in Canada for more than 10 years.

“Since then they had a daughter here, built a life, and have become cherished members of our community,” says the letter from Sanctuary Health.

The couple initially made a refugee claim when they came to Canada from Mexico, but they didn’t have legal representation at the hearing. Prior to being detained by CBSA, their new lawyer had submitted an application that the family be permitted to stay in Canada permanently based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Russell, who raised the issue at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, said that humanitarian appeal is not being heard at this point. But she said the issue is not being dropped; New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian and a refugee law clinic are working on behalf of the family.

The school district and the school have written letters in support, and the board will also be sending a letter to federal representatives.

How New Westminster residents can support the fight against deportation

Russell said other community members can also add their voices to the cause.

Anyone who wants to get involved can find Sanctuary Health’s letter online at Action Network. They’re asked to send it to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino.

The issue has sparked particular concern in New Westminster, where School District 40 adopted a sanctuary schools policy in 2017. The policy is designed to ensure that all residents, even those with precarious immigration status, can safely attend local schools and that none of their information will be shared with immigration officials.

In this case, the CBSA appeared to be targeting the family based on their child’s attendance at school. Though the mother was apprehended on the street on her way home, it’s believed that she was being surveilled and followed by CBSA officers.

Community members held a rally outside Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in December to support the family and to speak out against the CBSA's actions.

– with files from Theresa McManus

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