Honduran family that faced deportation in 2017 happily sworn in as Canadian citizens in Sask.
Wednesday was a very happy day for an immigrant family in Moosomin, Sask. Three members of Victor Santos' family became Canadian citizens.
"We are very excited, so happy. This is a big day for us," said Lesi Cardoza, Santos' wife.
Their road to citizenship has been especially bumpy.
Santos says he left his home country of Honduras in 2007 after witnessing the murder of a journalist on the street, then receiving death threats of his own.
His family first arrived in Toronto in 2011, and initially filed for refugee status there. They later moved to Moosomin, Sask., 224 kilometres southeast of Regina.
Santos, Cardoza and their two children Victor Mauricio, 18, and Edward Santos, 11, lived in Moosomin for several years. Then, in 2017, they received a deportation order.
Santos's latest claim for refugee status in Canada was denied for failing to provide enough evidence to support the family's fear of returning to Honduras, something Santos said he had been trying hard to corroborate from outside the country.
Their youngest child, Edward, was born in Canada and was not subject to the deportation order.
"We only had about two weeks," said Mauricio."Our deportation tickets were already booked. We were pretty much faced with no choice really. [But] we didn't want to accept defeat."
A community effort
The small but mighty town of Moosomin rallied behind the family, circulating a petition, organizing a letter-writing campaign and calling the media so that the Santos family's story could get out to as many people as possible.
"At that time I gave up for a little bit. But at the same time, I get up and say, 'No, it's not the time, even if we have a date for deportations. We have our family. We know we are strong and we have to keep going,'" Santos said.
The federal government came through just in the nick of time. The family had requested the help of then-Saskatchewan MP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. A federal immigration officer informed the Honduran family that they'd receive a temporary resident work permit.
That bought them a little time, and in 2018 they became permanent residents. Now, they're citizens.
"We persevered in the end and … our dreams came true," said Mauricio.
Santos said life has been good for the family since then. They have a house and good jobs. His son Mauricio said Moosomin is very welcoming to immigrants and there are a lot of opportunities there.
"I think it's really truly beautiful how the community is welcoming," Mauricio said. "I feel like that's what attracts immigrants here. It's seen as a safe haven, as a home, as a place where you can can feel loved and welcomed."
The family wants everyone to know that that Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony is the result of their community's support.
"We're not here to celebrate us. We're here to celebrate their hard work and everything they've done for us. Really, truly, we wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. The ceremony … we really owe it to them," said Mauricio.
The family said they hope to celebrate with food and festivities with Moosomin friends in the coming days.