9 yr old Canadian detained in the US - ehMac.ca
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 01:43 PM   #1
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9 yr old Canadian detained in the US

Complex case involved here, and I'm sure the parents are guilty of a few improper things, but why is the US government getting involved in a problem that doesn't necessarily involve them?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl.../National/home

9 Year old's plea:
'Dear Mr. Prime minister haper I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom. Mr. Priminister haper pleace bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.'

Quote:
AUSTIN, TEX. — Even if you try to look past the eight-metre-high chain-link fence, beyond the scores of uniformed guards patrolling the perimeter and away from the cameras, metal detectors and lasers, there isn't the slightest evidence of children inside the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center.

No one is playing outside; there are no sounds of laughter.

But inside the thick, whitewashed walls of this former maximum-security prison in the heart of Texas are about 170 children — including a nine-year-old Canadian boy named Kevin.

Call it international limbo. Detained by U.S. Customs officials after their flight to Toronto made an unscheduled stop on American soil nearly four weeks ago, Kevin and his Iranian parents, Majid and Masomeh, feel they are being held hostage not only by the physical parameters of Hutto, but by the politics of nationality.

“We can't go home because I am Canadian but my parents are not,” Kevin said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail — no personal interviews have been granted.

Majid and Masomeh — they prefer their last name not be used — initially fled Iran for Canada in January, 1995, to seek political asylum. Majid did odd jobs, eventually becoming manager of an east Toronto pizza parlour, paying the rent for their one-bedroom apartment.

In 1997, their only son, Kevin, was born. “For the first time, I was happy,” Majid said from the Hutto detention facility.

“I had my family with me — it's the only family I have — we didn't have any problems and we lived happy in Toronto.”

Kevin attended a Toronto school until Grade 3. Meanwhile, his parents were seeking refugee status, based on fear of persecution in Iran, but their application was denied and, in December, 2005, the family of three was deported.Upon their arrival in Tehran, Majid said he was taken away from his family to a prison cell. For three months, he was detained, beaten and tortured, he said. When he was released, the three were reunited, and, with the help of friends and relatives, they connected with a people smuggler in Tehran.

“I pay him $40,000 to [get us] to Canada. It included everything: fake passports, tickets. He got $20,000 in Iran, and $20,000 in Turkey.”

Carrying Greek passports — which do not require visas for entry into Canada — they travelled to Guyana, where they eventually boarded a Toronto-bound plane.

Lorne Waldman, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, said that because of the heightened security measures put in place after Sept. 11, 2001, people smugglers have found alternate routes to get into Canada.

“We see people coming in with very exotic and complex and convoluted routes,” he said. “Moscow was one. Guyana is another ... because the smugglers believe it was a route that was subjected to less scrutiny.”

It was that belief that got Kevin and his parents onto a Zoom Airlines chartered, non-stop flight from Georgetown to Toronto.

No one could have anticipated what happened next.

“The woman sitting two seats behind me, she kept running to the washroom for vomiting. They put oxygen on her, and tell us to stay in our seats. They just said we have to divert to another city because of an emergency landing.”

A woman had suffered a heart attack and died on board. After landing in Puerto Rico, everyone was told to disembark while emergency crew removed the body.

“They say we have to pass immigration, and they say because we have Greek passport, you need to get a visa for United States. I said no, our ticket is to Toronto, we have no plan to come here.”

After being held in Puerto Rico for five days, the family was brought to Taylor, Tex., about 45 kilometres northeast of Austin, to the main U.S. family detention centre for immigrants.

“My luggage go to Toronto,” said Majid, 42, “and we have to stay here.”

Now, the three of them are locked inside the centre that, U.S. refugee advocates recently alleged, features inadequate medical care, lack of privacy and abusive behaviour by staff toward the green-uniformed detainees.

Everyone must wake up by 5:30 a.m. to take showers. They get 15 minutes to eat each meal. Everyone must be in bed by 9:30 p.m., when laser-triggered alarms are set to detect if anyone gets up.

“The day is very regimented,” said Barbara Hines, a law professor at the University of Texas who runs an immigration clinic with her students — the only way many of the detainees get representation.

“This is a prison. They have a head count three times a day where they have to be in their cells for an hour to be counted down.”

At one point, Majid walked into the room where Kevin and his mother sleep to help them fix a broken bed.

“They were told that if he violated rules, because the father's not allowed into that room, the family would be separated,” Ms. Hines said. “One of the things the detainees have reported to us is the threat of separation as a means of discipline.”

The only other detention facility that holds families is in Pennsylvania, she said — but that used to be a nursing home, not a prison. “No amount of softening it [Hutto] up, as the government says, is going to change the fact that this is a secure prison facility, not a family residential centre,” she said.

But an official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jamie Zuieback, said the “residential, non-secure setting at Hutto” was opened in May to keep families together.

Kevin, meanwhile, has lost six pounds in the past two weeks because he hasn't been eating, his father said. Nearly all of the meals come from cans, Kevin complained.

“Beans, beef, sometimes they give rice. But it's all garbage.”

Kevin goes to school for four hours a day, of which only one is instructional. He said that since he left Toronto, he hasn't gone to a real school.

“My biggest wish is to go to Canada and be free, to go to my school, go for my books,” Kevin said, his father's voice audible in the background.

“I want to be safe with me and my parents, and see my teachers and my friends again.”

When the consular officer at the Canadian consulate in Dallas visited the family at Hutto two weeks ago, Majid said, “he asked about our rooms and our food. Just regarding here. I asked him what he can do for us, and he said, ‘I don't promise now. But we can help Kevin, not you.' ”

David Marshall, a consulate spokesman, said that he could not talk about the case, citing the Privacy Act.

Alain Cacchione, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Canada, would not comment either.

But Audrey Macklin, a professor of immigration at the University of Toronto, said that this case highlights the asymmetry of Canadian citizenship.

“We say that if adults are Canadian citizens, then they can somehow confer protection of their citizenship on their children. But we don't allow the reverse,” she said from Toronto. “Instead, what we do is render, in effect, the Canadian citizenship of the child null, because he can't exercise it [and sponsor his parents]. It's as if his Canadian citizenship doesn't exist or is worthless because his parents don't have it.”

She said that if the Canadian government wanted to protect Kevin, it could.

“If protecting this child means letting the parents into Canada, is that a price worth paying? Well, I think we should seriously consider that.”

If they were allowed back into Canada, Prof. Macklin said, they could seek what is called a pre-risk removal assessment based on “new facts about what happened in Iran when they were deported.”

Above all else, Kevin, Majid and Masomeh say they want to live in Canada.

“We want to be free and safe,” Majid said. “Our plan was to go to Toronto, Canada, because it's my son's home and our home for the past few years. We have nothing there, but we were there for 10 years and it was good.”
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 02:20 PM   #2
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Children. 170 of them. In detention. Isn't there a law.....?

Kudos to the Globe & Mail for getting this story out - not that I think Canadian Immigration will do anything...

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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 02:30 PM   #3
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I don't have sympathies for people trying to enter Canada illegally...twice at that, but, and here's the big BUT. Why did it take Canadian Immigration 10 years to deport this couple, and with a Canadian born child?

Incompetent Immigration Ministry and an incompetent system, and because of this incompetence, I say we owe them the privilege of a return ticket and legal status as residents.

You land in Canada as a refugee, you should get 6 months(at most) to determine whether you stay or go, not 10, 20, 30 years. Hell, after that time you should be granted citizenship by default.

We're constantly inundated with these horror/sob stories, which tells me the problem lies within a flawed system.
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 02:40 PM   #4
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This is complex. I can see why the rules are the current way, but it's still difficult.

"Meanwhile, his parents were seeking refugee status, based on fear of persecution in Iran, but their application was denied and, in December, 2005, the family of three was deported."

“I pay him $40,000 to [get us] to Canada. It included everything: fake passports, tickets. He got $20,000 in Iran, and $20,000 in Turkey.”

"I asked him what he can do for us, and he said, ‘I don't promise now. But we can help Kevin, not you.' ”

“We say that if adults are Canadian citizens, then they can somehow confer protection of their citizenship on their children. But we don't allow the reverse,” she said from Toronto. “Instead, what we do is render, in effect, the Canadian citizenship of the child null, because he can't exercise it [and sponsor his parents]. It's as if his Canadian citizenship doesn't exist or is worthless because his parents don't have it.”
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #5
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 03:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HowEver
Which came first? The persecution in Iran, or the flight from Iran the first time? It seems that they were not at risk until they left with no legal status and came to Canada--knowing full well that they could be sent back.

Refugee status was denied because they weren't at risk in Iran in the first place--until they returned there. No doubt this was the chance they took when they left for the first time.

Were they hoping that a Canadian child would confer status on the parents here, or is that just too crass an observation?

Why try to come back to Canada after being denied status here? To go through the courts for another 10 years?

I'd like to be sympathetic but what exactly is their contribution to Canada?
All good questions. Thanks for the thoughts.

The mess is protecting a natural born Canadian, not encouraging some strange "baby bonus", considerations of protecting just the Canadian (if it really is just about "the children"), finding out what took us so long to deport (and if that means taking much more responsibility nationally) and more, not the least of which is the behaviour and motivations behind the behaviour of the parents. This is not simple.
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Old Mar 4th, 2007, 08:25 PM   #7
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I think "detention" is a media word here...where do you expect to put them while in "purgatory" shall we say? They are illegally in a country they have to be held somewhere until everything is settled.

Not overly sympatheitc either, he bought fake passports trying to get into the country. As well as came here on the assumption Canada would let him in. His refugee status was rejected; he tried to beat the system and accidently got caught.
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 04:18 AM   #8
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9 year old children are, last time I checked the laws in Canada, in the US, and in Iran ... still the wards of their natural, competent parents.

His parents were deported, and then schemed to return to Canada illegally.

The US, discovering that they were traveling under false documents, have no choice but to hold them. It's against US law to travel over US airspace with illegal documents.

Now, since 2002 Canada and the US jointly manage the same, shared customs database. The moment the US found about the fake passports, they would have seen they've been deported from Canada, and when the US entered the data regarding the fake documents that information would be available to Canada at that very moment.

I know it sounds harsh, but had they left Canada even a day before they were deported, they would be at square one. Square one means they could apply to enter Canada, which always must be done while outside Canada (and this is the same way in every country in the world, by the way).

Being deported puts you far from square one, but at least you can see it from there. Getting caught trying to illegally re-enter the country with false passports after being deported? Square one is not even an option anymore.

The US can't send them on to Canada, because when a country refuses entry to someone they must go back to the last country they came from. It's certain that Canada will refuse entry; we really don't have any choice, actually, because we know too much now. That would have been Guyana, but now it's the US. And that means the US would have to take them, and probably have to consider a refugee status claim.

Which is why the US is holding them. Since they were traveling under illegal documents, they broke US law by occupying an aircraft that travelled over US airspace (which they would have been guilty of, Puerto Rico Emergency or not).

So, they are in limbo. My guess is if the US is doing anything on their behalf, it's trying to get Guyana to take them back. If Guyana refuses, then it's back to Iran.

When the boy is 18, he will be free to enter Canada, without his parents. He is probably free to enter now but his parents would have to find someone willing to take him, and send him on with their permission. They're not going with him, though.

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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 08:24 AM   #9
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Didn't they make a movie about this with Tom Hanks? The Terminal? Maybe their story could be The Terminal 2: Lockdown
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 10:13 AM   #10
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While I have sympathy for the son, the parents were trying to manipulate the system for a second time. They don’t deserve any sympathy.
That said, Canadian Immigration needs to be fixed. It should take weeks. a few months at most, to determine the status of a claimant not 5 to 10 years. The system, as it stands, leads to abuse and creates ridiculous situations where several children can be born as Canadian citizens as the process is dragged out. And the fact there is little in place to keep reliable track of the people coming into Canada while waiting for their cases to be processed is a post 9/11 concern.
The system needs a complete overhaul but I doubt the political will is there to do it.
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