Jose Figueroa says his political activity 20 years ago in El Salvador does not make him a threat to Canada now. ((CBC))

A would-be refugee from El Salvador says unfair anti-terrorism rules will force him and his family to leave Canada after 14 years in this country.

Jose Figueroa admits he supported the underground opposition during El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s. He says that is why the federal government is intent on deporting him.

Since their arrival in 1996, Figueroa and his wife have had three children. All are Canadian citizens.

"Our main concern is our son, who is autistic," Figueroa told CBC News in Langley, B.C., on Monday. "We have been working very hard to bring him to a point where he can be a very productive member of society."

Figueroa was associated in El Salvador with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) more than 20 years ago.

The government has said that association makes Figueroa a security risk and therefore ineligible to stay in Canada.

Figueroa denies the accusation.

"We are not hurting anyone. We cannot be seen as a threat to Canadian security," he said.

He joined the FMLN as a university student and was never involved in violence, Figueroa said.

At the time, the government of El Salvador was accused of being engaged in widespread human rights abuses, including the killing and kidnapping of opponents.

Conservative MP in support

The FMLN is not only no longer an underground political movement in the Central American country, it has formed the democratically elected government, said University of British Columbia political science professor Max Cameron.

"It was, I think, a legitimate option in the 1980s," said Cameron. "Since then it's become an official party, a democratic party, the governing party."

Figueroa's deportation demonstrates how the government is overreaching in its attempts to weed out politically violent people, said Cameron.

"We do need to look at whether our legislation is just too broad and if everyone who was a member of the FMLN or the [African National Congress] or other movements for political change around the world are all going to be considered terrorists. Then we have to consider changing the legislation."

Figueroa is actively supported by a number of people in his community 20 kilometres east of Vancouver, including Conservative MP Mark Warawa.

Warawa said he has written Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, seeking to have him grant the family a ministerial exemption for the sake of Figueroa's B.C.-born children.  


Figueroa's three children were born in Canada after he and his wife came here in 1996. ((CBC))

"Canadians should not be forced to leave Canada," Warawa said.

The family's application for a judicial review of their case has been denied.

The final decision is up to Toews.

With files from the CBC's Greg Rasmussen and Chris Brown