Wednesday 3 August 2022

Press Release: Family of Essential Pandemic Workers Facing Deportation; Ask Minister to Intervene

New Westminster ---  On Wednesday August 3rd, surrounded by their supporters, the Bazan family asked Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to intervene and halt their removal to Mexico as part of a wider call for a broad and inclusive regularization program. Over 900 people have written letters to the Minister in support of Leticia Bazan Porto (“Letty”), her sons Andres Obed Liberato Bazan (“Andres”) and Isaias Alain Liberato Bazan (“Isaias”), her daughter-in-law Claudia Alejandra Zamorano Gomez (“Claudia”) and her 9 year old granddaughter.  

The family arrived in Canada more than four years ago fleeing death threats from organized crime and have provided essential labour during the pandemic as they’ve waited for their refugee claims to process. Since October 2020, Claudia has put her life on the line working as a housekeeper in the COVID ward at Royal Columbian Hospital. Claudia is a member of the Hospital Employees’ Union who have supported the families campaign and have also issued a news release.

“I have been working cleaning COVID-19 treatment rooms because nobody wants such a dangerous job,” Claudia said. “We hear constantly at work that there is a labour shortage, but the government is seeking to remove me to a country where I’m afraid for my family’s life. How does that make sense?” 

In December 2020, the federal government launched special programs to regularize the status of refugee claimants who worked in health care. The stated purpose of the now-closed program was to “recogniz[e] the considerable contribution and sacrifice health-care workers have made in Canada throughout the pandemic.” In reality, the program’s extremely narrow criteria excluded many migrant health-care workers; in Claudia’s case, she was excluded because she did not provide direct care to patients. 

Letty is a prolific volunteer including at the South Granville Seniors Centre, Carnegie Community Centre and Mission Possible. She has been a pillar of Watari Counselling and Support Services Society’s food security program contributing to the preparation of 1000 meals and the delivery of 100 food hampers per week. 

“Quite simply, without Letty’s hard work, hundreds of people in our community would not have been able to eat during the pandemic,” said Ingrid Mendez, Executive Director at Watari Counselling and Support Services Society.

Andres and Isaias have both been working in construction and their employer CWL Contracting supports their ongoing application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. In July 2019, the government announced a public policy for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area to recognize the economic contributions of construction workers like Andres and Isaias. As refugee claimants in British Columbia, Andres and Isaias were not eligible for this narrow program. 

“We won’t let the government continually chew up and spit out members of our community,” says Omar Chu. “These small piecemeal programs mean that the government is continually trying to deport people like Claudia, Letty, Isaias and Andres. That’s why Sanctuary Health is part of a movement demanding an ongoing expansive and inclusive program for full and permanent immigration status for all.”

The imminent deportation is putting stress on the whole family including Andres and Claudia’s nine year old daughter, who has spent her entire school life in Canada since she started kindergarten in 2018. The Canada Border Services Agency ordered her to attend a meeting with her family on July 8th when they told the family they would be deported. Since that meeting, she is not sleeping through the night and is seeing a counsellor about her fears of removal to Mexico. 

“They took fingerprints from all the adults, but didn’t take fingerprints from my daughter. I don’t know why they said my daughter had to be there,” Claudia says. “As a mother, that makes me angry and sad because I see that this has changed my daughter. She cries and asks ‘we are not bad people, why can’t we stay?’”