Jilmar Picón and Yolanda Martinez are in the fight for their lives. Having fled their native Guatemala after they were unable to pay off local drug cartels to ensure their safety, the family has been on the run for nearly two decades. They first fled to the US where they settled in Alabama, but after having received death threats there and with no ability to contact authorities, the family came to Canada, hopeful that they might be able to plant roots here. After having been swindled out of more than $70,000 and their work visas having recently expired, their efforts may prove to have been in vain.
Their story in Canada dates back to 2011 when they arrived in Montreal, applied for Refugee Status, and were awarded work permits while they sorted their affairs and applied for visas under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Unsure of how to navigate the application system and with limited English, the family enlisted the help of a close family friend. Over the course of the process, the family paid over $70,000 in money and services in exchange for help, only to find that none of the money paid for things like retainers and other services could be accounted for. The timeline for application and appeals has been exhausted and an order for immediate deportation has now been signed.
What makes this story especially heartwrenching is the fact that the four youngest children will be deported to Houston because to return to Guatemala would mean certain death. The parents are sending them alone where their eldest daughter who, at only 18 years old, would be responsible to care for the remainder of her siblings, the youngest of whom is only six. Even with this in mind, to send them to the U.S. would mean that the kids have a shot at survival, something that is highly unlikely should they return to Guatemala.
Nelly, the eldest of the siblings to be deported to Houston, also suffers from a rare genetic disorder for which she has been able to receive treatment while in Canada. The medical report submitted by her doctor clearly states that to remove her from treatment would be to condemn her to a slow and painful death. She will likely require a kidney transplant at some point and her match, who happens to be her father, would no longer be available to make the vital donation should the family be separated.
With a deportation date set for July 12, 2017, we are reaching out to anyone and everyone who might be able to help.
The family no longer has the means to support themselves, and we are gearing up for the fight of their lives (literally.) We welcome any donation to help the family pay for basic necessities like food and shelter until they are forced to leave, and also to pay for any additional costs incurred while we pursue every available avenue in an attempt to stay the deportation.
We are currently lobbying members of parliament, writing letters, and we are working closely with humanitarian organizations to keep the family here in Canada.
If you are able to donate, please do! We also welcome calls to the parliamentary office of Hon. Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, at [phone redacted], as well as signatures to the official petition. Thank you!
- Kelly Bailey
- Deborah Lantz
- Carole Ann Stephen
Organizer and beneficiary
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