Guatemalan family faces tough choice as deportation looms in the new year
A Guatemalan mother and her six children who face deportation in January are pleading with authorities to stay in Canada.
The Roblero-Morales family, who live in Waterloo, Ont., came to Canada in 2017.
Sandra Morales and her husband Daniel Roblero fled violence and persecution in Guatemala in the 1990s and lived illegally in the U.S. for years where they met, married and had six children.
With the advent of the Trump presidency, they feared stepped-up immigration enforcement would lead to their deportation and their kids -- aged five to 18, who are U.S. citizens -- being taken from them.
They all came to Canada in April 2017 where they applied for asylum. But a year ago the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada found the family did not meet refugee requirements.
Daniel was deported to Guatemala on Nov. 2, leaving Sandra and her children with two options: go to Guatemala or let the children go to the U.S. without their parents where the eldest child, who is 18, would look after his siblings.
“When I think of the situation it’s very hard,” Morales, 34, told CTV News.
“I’m really scared about what happens now. If (the children) go with me to Guatemala it’s very dangerous there and I don’t have anything in Guatemala for them. The education there is very poor.”
She said she has thought about the children going to the U.S. on their own.
“I’m really scared, especially for my youngest kids, they need me,” she said.
“I wish the government changed its mind, I pray a lot. I say ‘God help me’ because I need to stay here.”
Morales said she wants to stay in Canada for her children and is thankful for all the help she got here.
“It’s the future for my kids,” she said.
The family Skypes with Daniel every evening, leaving some of the children in tears.
The couple’s eldest son, Gimber Roblero, 18, who has aspirations of taking up a trade, said he is “sad and frustrated.”
“I can’t work or go to school, so it’s pretty hard,” he told CTV News.
“I don’t really have much to do here. I want to be with my family, that’s the main reason why we came here, to be together. That’s why my dad came here.”
He said he really likes living in “peaceful” Canada, but said he was prepared to take his siblings to the U.S.
“All we’re trying to do is work and not depend on the government and make the country better,” he said.
“I hear my mom crying at night, nobody likes hearing their mom cry, and my little brothers too, they get sad because my dad’s not around.”
A dozen Canadian organizations have signed an open letter to the government while the family wait on a decision for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“The U.S. is not a safe place for them, and neither is Guatemala,” the letter reads.
“Also, three of their children have serious health issues. While the family is able to access the medical services and the care they need in a cost-effective way in Canada, this would not be the case in Guatemala.”
According to the Kitchener Record, one child has dietary issues, another has a hand deformity with no fingers on his right hand and another has developmental delays.
“They belong in Canada. They have family and community here,” the letter reads.
“Sending the children to a country they have never stepped foot in would be a grave injustice.”
In her judgment in July, the Record reports, Justice Elizabeth Walker of the federal court said that the couple "failed to establish with clear and non-speculative evidence that being removed to Guatemala at this time will cause them irreparable harm."
Roblero, whose brothers live in Kitchener legally, was deported twice from the U.S.
Daniella Roblero, 16, told CTV News the uncertainty was “very stressful.”
“Going to school, not paying attention and worrying about my mom, my family,” she said.
“Before this all happened I was a happy girl. I want to figure out a way to help her (mom). If we leave Canada it will be hard for us.”
For now, a pile of luggage sits in the Roblero-Morales’ kitchen, ready for when the family are forced to leave.