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Hamilton family of 9 claims immigration process has left them ‘devastated,’ facing deportation | Breaking:


This year should be one of the happiest in Sarah Alsaleh’s life.

The 25-year-old newlywed just moved into a new home with her husband and she was early in her pregnancy with her first child.

“I couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

Last month, Alsaleh, along with eight members of her family — including three children under the age of 10 — received deportation orders that would send them to Jordan, scheduled for July 14.

Alsaleh said she does not remember living in Jordan.

Last month, Alsaleh had a miscarriage. She told CBC Hamilton she believes the stress of the eviction notice contributed to the loss of her baby.

“When I spoke to my lawyer, he said, ‘Sarah, maybe you have a higher risk of a high-risk pregnancy and you can’t handle so much stress.’ But I’m losing my family, maybe I’m losing my husband too,” she said.

Family came to Canada to be together

Alsaleh’s family came to Canada in February 2022. She said that before coming to North America, her family had lived in Qatar for decades.

She said they left Qatar because they were not citizens and as foreigners had no protection.

“When we arrived here (in Canada), we felt so safe. We felt like life was smiling on us,” she said.

Her father, Yasir, was born and raised in Jordan. Her mother, Ana, is from Romania. Alsaleh said her parents faced Islamophobia in Romania and were at risk in Jordan.

“We have a problem there. We have a danger there. It is a risk for us to go there,” she said.

Alsaleh and her family said they were not comfortable explaining the risks they face in Jordan due to security concerns.

The Government of Canada website has a travel advisory for the country, stating that visitors should “be very careful in Jordan due to the threat of terrorism, civil unrest and demonstrations”.

Yasir Alsaleh and his wife, Ana Marecek, brought their children and grandchildren to Canada, seeking reunion with Marecek’s sister. They all now face deportation. (Cara Nickerson/CBC)

Alsaleh said her family chose Canada because Alsaleh’s aunt, her mother’s sister, immigrated to Hamilton in 2017 and is seeking permanent residency.

“She was separated from my mother when she came here,” Alsaleh said, adding that just over a year after they reunite, her mother and aunt will be separated again.

Alsaleh’s husband Adnan Taha, 36, was born and raised in Hamilton.

He said the whole experience has changed the way he sees the immigration process in his country.

“To see family being ripped apart… You know, I really wish Canada would focus on family reunification,” he said.

The immigration process can be overwhelming and confusing for new Canadians

Canada’s immigration process can be “very confusing” for many people entering the country, said immigration lawyer Daniel Kingwell, who represents Alsaleh’s family.

“It’s hard to know what to submit. It’s hard to know how everything interacts,” he said.

Alsaleh said her family had an immigration consultant when they arrived in February 2022 and were unaware they needed a lawyer to properly navigate the immigration system.

“When we applied for refugee status (status), our advisor only knows basic legal matters,” she said.

“But we didn’t know that.”

The family initially sought refugee status, but Alsaleh said they failed to properly file paperwork and have sufficient legal advice in the crucial first few months of settling in Canada.

Marriage to a Canadian citizen does not prevent deportation

Taha and Alsaleh met through family friends and got married last January.

But their marriage doesn’t stop Alsaleh from being deported.

Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson Karine Martel told CBC Hamilton: “Being married to a Canadian citizen does not automatically prevent removal of an alien.”

Kingwell said that from the CBSA’s perspective, the deportation of Alsaleh and her family is business as usual. “People are being deported. Families are being separated. That’s the norm. Apply from abroad, just like everyone else.”

“People’s intuition is to say that if you’re married to someone you should be allowed to stay, but for various reasons, that’s not the case.”

He said the entire immigration process, from refugee claims to humanitarian applications, is “all highly discretionary” and dependent on the CBSA agents handling a case.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Dubois said someone in Alsaleh’s position was likely to apply for an authorization to return to Canada after deportation.

The deportation process takes a mental, physical toll on the family

Taha said the deportation has taken a toll on the physical and mental health of the entire family.

He is still “heartbroken” over his wife’s loss of her pregnancy, he said.

But Taha said he is also heartbroken to see the effect the deportation has had on Alsaleh’s nine-year-old sister and three-year-old niece, who had to attend CBSA meetings about the deportation.

Two little girls at a dining table
Sarah Alsaleh’s younger sister, Lujain, and her niece, Haya, have been negatively affected by the stress of their family’s deportation. (Cara Nickerson/CBC)

“Right after those meetings, they get withdrawn. They’re almost catatonic after those meetings, you know, and they just cry in silence,” he said.

He said Alsaleh and her family all had to attend counseling to deal with the stress of the deportation order.

“No one wants to be divorced,” Taha said, adding that even if he and Alsaleh successfully file for her return to Canada, she won’t be the same without her family.

“She’ll be devastated.”

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