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After a 13-year-battle, B.C. resident José Figueroa finally gets his Canadian citizenship

Spent two years in a church sanctuary to avoid deportation
A proud José Figueroa displayed his certificate on Oct. 19, the day he became a Canadian citizen, ending a 13-year-battle to remain in his adopted country that saw the Langley City resident seek sanctuary in a Walnut Grove church. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

After 13 years of fighting to stay in his adopted country, José Figueroa is a Canadian.

On Oct. 19, in Vancouver, the Langley City resident was sworn in at a small ceremony in front of family and friends, calling it “the seal to many years of struggle for justice.”

Figueroa spent more than two years living in sanctuary at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley after he was ordered deported to his native El Salvador over his involvement with an anti-government group.

“I’m very happy — very happy,” he told the Langley Advance Times.

“The ceremony puts an end to all those years of uncertainty,” Figueroa added.

His wife, Ivania, received her Canadian citizenship last year.

“I was a guest at that one,” he recalled.

His was delayed because he still had some bureaucratic hoops to jump, including a puzzling demand for new fingerprints that he complied with.

“I didn’t make any fuss about it,” he said.

READ ALSO: A day in the life of José Figueroa

Figueroa came to Canada, legally, 25 years ago from El Salvador.

His three children, José Jr., Esmeralda and Ruby were born at Langley Memorial Hospital.

But then, in 2010, Figueroa’s request to become a permanent resident of Canada was denied, based on his support of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a group fighting the dictatorship in his home country, when he was a university student.

Immigration Canada determined that his affiliation with FMLN was reason enough to consider him a risk and he was ordered deported, even though FMLN went on to become the government of El Salvador and was not on any terrorist list within Canada.

After Canadian Border Services Agency put out a warrant for his arrest, Figueroa sought sanctuary in the Walnut Grove church.

READ ALSO: José Figueroa finally goes home

Figueroa ended his two years of sanctuary on Dec. 23, 2015, his birthday, making a tearful departure from the church after John McCallum, the new federal immigration minister, overturned the decision that had declared Figueroa inadmissible to Canada.

READ ALSO: Langley resident José Figueroa gets his permanent resident card

Now 55, Figueroa estimates he has spent more than 25 years fighting to remain in Canada.

Now that the battle is over, he said his feeling is one of “just relief,” and he wants his Canadian record cleared of any mention of the deportation order.

“It should be removed, or at least a notation [should be added] that it no longer applies.”

Figueroa was studying to become a lawyer, but said he had to give it up, in order to find work to support his family.

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Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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