Surrey father of two set to be deported despite family’s fears

SURREY — A Surrey man who is the father of two Canadian children is facing deportation in the next two weeks to his native Guatemala, where his family says he will be killed.

Osman Fernando De Leon Reyes, 29, was kidnapped and severely beaten in Guatemala in January 2006 after his mother, a government auditor, revealed multiple instances of corruption, according to de Leon’s wife, Heidy Pinto.

After his mother paid the ransom, police found him with serious injuries, which included “trauma to his left rib cage, a fractured clavicle on his right side and bruises all over his body and face,” according to a medical report submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. When paramedics arrived “they thought that he had already died,” Pinto said. Several months after his release from hospital, he came to Canada to be with Pinto, now 24, a permanent resident who had immigrated the year before and was pregnant with the couple’s first child. In 2009, the two married.

De Leon Reyes applied to stay in Canada as a refugee on the basis of his kidnapping. But at that time, he didn’t have the medical report and the government found he could not prove he was in danger if he returned to Guatemala. His claim was rejected and he was deported on June 30, 2010, leaving behind his four-year-old daughter.

After he returned to Guatemala, De Leon Reyes found work in a pharmacy. Soon after, he was almost shot to death by a gang of men who arrived looking for him. Police investigated but no arrest was made, according to a translated 2012 police report.

De Leon Reyes left the country again, escaping first to Mexico and then sneaking back to Canada, where he was disqualified from making another claim because he was a failed refugee claimant.

In late January of this year, De Leon Reyes was arrested by Canada Border Services Agency officers because he was in Canada illegally, Pinto said.

“That was a horrible day because, my daughter, she … saw the people in the house and she started crying,” she said. “She couldn’t relax. She was crying for so long.”

De Leon Reyes was held for several days in immigration detention. He then applied for a pre-removal risk assessment, a procedure during which immigration officials make a determination as to the level of danger someone faces if they are deported.

Earlier this month, an immigration officer identified as B. Au ruled that De Leon Reyes was not in need of protection.

“I do not find that the applicant has demonstrated that he will face more than a mere possibility of persecution should he be returned to Guatemala,” Au wrote in the decision, dated Aug. 12. “Further, the evidence does not support a finding that the applicant is likely to face a danger of torture, or risk to life, or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in the event of a return to Guatemala.”

Police reports from the kidnapping and the subsequent assassination attempt reveal police did due diligence in documenting and investigating the crimes, Au wrote. This indicates police in Guatemala are capable of protecting citizens and there is therefore no legitimate need for Canada to provide asylum.

“I accept that the applicant encountered a number of incidents while he was in Guatemala. Regardless of why the applicant was a victim of crime in Guatemala, I find that he has failed to rebut the presumption of state protection,” Au wrote. “Although the applicant stated that the police authorities have not protected him in the past, evidence provided by him indicate the contrary.”

De Leon Reyes was informed his pre-removal assessment had been rejected on Thursday, when he checked in at the CBSA headquarters in Vancouver as per the terms of his release from detention. He became emotional and said he didn’t want to leave, so he was deemed a flight risk and apprehended, said his wife, noting that De Leon Reyes suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his kidnapping. He was held for three days at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre. Canada has been criticized in reports to the United Nations for housing immigration detainees in provincial jails in contravention of international law.

He was released from detention Monday in order to spend his remaining time in Canada with his family. It took officials at North Fraser Pretrial an additional three hours after CBSA had finished their paperwork to authorize his release.

The couple’s two children, Dahanara, 8, and Dilan, 3, have not known where their father, their primary caregiver, has been this week. Pinto said she did not want to tell her daughter, in particular, because she was so upset when her father was arrested at her home in January.

“The kids love him so much,” Pinto said.

It frustrates De Leon Reyes that he can’t help support them financially as he cannot legally work in Canada, but he helps in other ways while she works, she said. “He helps me just to do the stuff in the house. He cooks, he cleans, everything. He takes the kids to the park. My daughter is asking me for him. She’s like ‘Mommy, where is my dad?’ ”

De Leon Reyes’s lawyer, Theressa Etmanski, said there are a few legal options available and they will use the time remaining to explore them.

Pinto hopes they can find a legal way to keep her family together.

“I love him so much. He’s a really, really good man.”

The Canada Border Services Agency declined to comment on the case due to privacy legislation.

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