Supporters of a failed asylum seeker from El Salvador say it is wrong to deport him based on his past work with the party that now governs that country.

"I cannot explain the level of stress that has been caused not only on myself but to my wife and my kids," Jose Figueroa told CBC News.

Figueroa has been living in B.C. for more than 15 years with his wife and three children.

He has never hidden the fact he was a student recruiter for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). In the 1980s, the FMLN along with the Catholic Church and trade unions took sides against El Salvador's brutal military dictatorship.

Figueroa says he was never involved in any violent campaigns.


Jose Figueroa says his political activity in El Salvador in the 1980s does not make him a threat to Canada now. (CBC)

His application for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds was rejected on the grounds that the FMLN took part in killing during the civil war, and Figueroa was a member of a terrorist organization.

"I couldn't believe the level of ignorance of the person making this decision," he said.

The FMLN is not on Canada's list of terrorist entities, and the party now leads the democratically elected government of El Salvador. Canadian officials attended the inauguration of its president and the vice-president, once a high-ranking FMLN military commander, was welcomed to Toronto last fall.

Max Cameron, who specializes in Latin American politics at the University of British Columbia, said the immigration bureaucracy has its wires crossed.

"It misunderstands the situation," he said. "It is ignorant of the historical context of El Salvador and what the FMLN means."

Peter Edelmann is Figueroa's lawyer. He says, "The decision doesn't make a ton of sense to anyone. It's very difficult to understand the reasoning."

Karine Roy-Tremblay, the immigration official who wrote the decision, ruled Figueroa's Salvadoran wife and three Canadian born children can stay but he should be deported.

Figueroa has asked the Federal Court to intervene.

With files from Curt Petrovich