South Sudanese man, 29, allegedly posed as high school student in Windsor, Ont.
Man's name appears on Catholic Central high school basketball scores
Fingerprints from an earlier attempt to get into the United States led to the detention of a South Sudanese man who was living in Windsor, Ont., allegedly as a high school student, border officials say.
Jonathan Nicola came to Canada in November 2015 on a student visa to study in Windsor until January 2017, according to submissions made by the Canada Border Services Agency at an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing April 19.
When he entered the country his passport and visa application listed his birth date as November 1998. But when he applied for a U.S visitor visa in April, his fingerprints matched an individual who'd already applied for a visa with a birth date in November 1986, the CBSA alleges.
Nicola is being held because the board determined he is a flight risk.
Listed in basketball scores
The Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board confirmed he attended one of its schools and the region's athletic association lists a Jonathan Nicola on Catholic Central high school's senior boys basketball team.
A student who says he played against Nicola in high school basketball this past winter remembers his size and ability.
"At 6'10 he was pretty dominant, he was dunking on everybody, it was pretty hard," said Fazar Yousif, 15, who attends Kennedy Collegiate high school.
Safeguards in place, board says
Stephen Fields, a spokesman for the Catholic board, said he could not discuss this specific case due to privacy concerns.
"When we have a case that involves one of our students we're obliged to do what we can to protect their privacy," Fields told CBC News in a phone interview.
He said he was at the school Nicola attended Thursday speaking to the community's concerns.
"We are sending some messaging through our director saying that our thoughts and prayers are with them. We understand that this is a difficult time, but if they would simply allow due process to take its course and respect the privacy of the people who are involved in this situation now," he said.
Fields said he has never heard of a case where a student was proven to have attended a Catholic school in Windsor under a false name.
He said the board has safeguards in place to prevent international students from entering the system under false pretences. Those documents can include a passport, study permit or student visa — which Nicola had — immunization records and academic transcripts.
But if students have the proper paperwork signed off by Canadian immigration officials, the board takes the students at their word, Fields said.
"We take at face value the government documentation that they provide to us ," Fields said. "If somebody shows up with a passport that's stamped by the Government of Canada, generally we're fairly trusting the documents they're providing to us are valid."
Detention review next week
Windsor-based immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri, who has no direct knowledge of this case, said these kinds of cases are the exception rather than the rule.
"We have a good system run by good people, but these things will slip through the cracks," he said.
"We have a good system, let's have faith in it. But there are always ways we can improve it. If anything else we can shine a light on this crack that needs to be closed."
Nicola is being held at the South West Detention Centre in Windsor. He has a hearing with the immigration board to determine whether he made false statements when he applied to come to Canada.
A detention review is scheduled for April 26.
With files from the CBC's Stacey Janzer