Verónica and Oscar Velasco live in a basement apartment in Dartmouth, off a street named after a flower. Like many couples in the HRM, their apartment is littered with toys and books and other remnants of young children. Unlike other couples, however, they may face deportation from Canada.
Verónica and Oscar fled Mexico as refugees in the summer of 2008, fearing persecution for themselves and their four children. For the past year, they have been living and working in Halifax, waiting for their refugee hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
Last week they received written notice---completely in French, a language they do not speak---that their claim was refused.
"You couldn't ask for better people," says their landlord, Ed Flewelling. Verónica and Oscar are both working two jobs and their children are excelling in school.
Four days after Verónica and Oscar received their determination, Immigration minister Jason Kenney released an announcement that Mexicans (along with Czechs) will now need visas to enter Canada.
Mexico is the top destination for Canadian tourists. But while Canadians sip margaritas on cloistered resorts, Mexicans are being negatively affected by the narco economy that has led to police and government corruption and a violent, volatile climate. In 2008, there were more than 10,000 drug-related deaths in Mexico, and 9,400 Mexicans sought asylum in Canada.
The Velascos fear for their lives if they go back to Mexico. "Coming here was the hardest thing I have ever done," says Verónica. "I miss my family, I miss Guadalajara, I miss everything. But, for our safety and the future of our kids, I know we can't go back."
Marie Kettle, coordinator with the Atlantic Refugee and Immigrant Services Society, says that over the past year more than a third of ARISS's clients have been Mexican.
"The fear of the people I've met is genuine," she says. "And the Canadian government is not giving enough credence to their fear and situation."