A Nigerian couple who came to Calgary as skilled workers may be forced to leave because their baby was born in the U.S. while their immigration documents were being processed.
Dimeji and Deborah Tawose arrived in Calgary with their three children in mid-July under the federal skilled worker program. Both are medical radiographers.
But confusion over the status of their youngest child, who's still nursing, could mean the whole family will have to leave the country on Wednesday. It could also force the baby to separate from his parents for a few weeks because of visa and passport issues.
"To say it's hard is an understatement," said mother Deborah Tawose. "It's painful. We wouldn't for any reason have made this move, even if I was an idiot."
She says the family would not be able to travel with the eight-month-old boy because he carries a different citizenship — the result of what their immigration consultant calls a "total violation" of Canadian values.
"We've written, we've made representations, we've faxed letters, we've spoken to those who need to be spoken to, and all we get is 'get out,'" said immigration consultant Kenny Thompson, who's trying to appeal the order.
"I'd rather see that we're sure Canada is a country that can truly stand in its place as a nation that has compassion, that shows compassion, particularly to children."
Immigration process started before pregnancy
The couple first applied to immigrate in 2013, while still living in the United Arab Emirates, before Deborah Tawose became pregnant with her third child. Her husband holds an MBA in health-care management, while she has a college degree in radiography.
The two were working abroad in Abu Dhabi when they decided to move to Canada for the sake of their children's future. It's a decision that Dimeji Tawose says he might regret.
"If I knew it was going to be this scenario, believe you me, I would not [have] made this venture," he said. "I was not chased out of U.A.E. I'm not a fugitive. I had a right to be there — I had a job, I was settled, I had a home. It was not as if I was under any duress."
Deborah Tawose became pregnant in 2014, just before she and her husband underwent their mandatory medical check-up. Dimeji Tawose says he immediately told the medical officer in charge of their examinations, and was reassured the pregnancy would be noted.
No Canadian visa for baby
While the couple waited for their visas, they followed through with another previous arrangement to travel to the United States for several months. They had already planned a vacation in that country, so the two decided then it would make more sense to have the child in the U.S.
"This was more certain," said Deborah Tawose. "I do not have the Canadian visa yet so I couldn't have think about coming to Canada to have the baby."
Plus, her husband says, the baby would automatically have American citizenship, an added bonus for its future.
Inioluwa Tawose, whose name means "God's heritage" in Yoruba, was born a few months later in Houston, Texas. Dimeji Tawose says shortly after the baby's birth, the family returned to Abu Dhabi and received their Canadian visas. After noticing a missing fifth visa, he says he then contacted the Canadian embassies in the U.A.E. and England to make sure the baby would be granted the same travel access.
"The London embassy never responded," said Dimeji Tawose. "But after several emails, we finally got an automatic response from the U.A.E. embassy, admitting they've gotten our email and there's no need for us to keep repeating the email because it's going to slow down the process of responding."
The family waited another half a year before deciding to take action. With their Canadian visas approaching expiry, the Tawoses decided to book their flights before being forced to restart the lengthy application process.
Following Emerati law, the couple left their jobs and lost their U.A.E. residency rights.
Arrived in Calgary earlier this month
The family of five arrived in Calgary on July 12. But Dimeji Tawose says they were denied landing status because of the baby and are now being ordered to leave the country, which means they are neither immigrants nor visitors, says Thompson. The family is staying with friends.
Since the baby was born in the U.S., the child does not have a Nigerian passport. The parents have applied for that document, but they say it would take at least another 15 business days for the Nigerian embassy in Toronto to process the paperwork. Meanwhile, as Nigerian nationals, the parents cannot simply travel south of the border with their American citizen baby without visitor visas of their own.
The family's immigration consultant says it's one of the worst cases he's ever come across in nine years of practice.
"I haven't seen one as terrible as this," said Thompson.
Meanwhile, the couple's radiography credentials are being re-confirmed here for the purpose of work licences. And Deborah Tawose says boxes of their belongings are sitting idly in a holding facility. She says she had even found a home to rent in Panorama Hills.
In total, she estimates she and her husband have spent about $25,000 to immigrate to Canada.
"They keep asking me, 'Mommy why are we not getting the house?" she said pointing to her two older children. "It's really devastating."
The family is expected to appear before Canadian officials at the Calgary International Airport on Wednesday. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has not responded to a CBC News request for comment at the time of publication.