As It Happens

Canadian boy, 7, being separated from his father and sent to Guatemala with his mother

Rosalba Solares says she and her child will be hunted down and killed by gangsters if she is separated from her husband and deported to Guatemala.

Toronto child's parents are being deported to 2 different countries, leaving him in legal limbo

Rosalba Solares, left, Jorge Orozco, right, and their son, Julien. The family faces separation and deportation from Canada after their asylum claims were rejected. (Submitted by Jorge Orozco)


Rosalba Solares says she and her child will be hunted down and killed by gangsters if she is separated from her husband and deported to Guatemala.

Solares, 42, and her husband Jorge Orozco, 59, have been living in Canada for 12 years. Their seven-year-old son Julien was born in Canada and is a citizen.

But on Friday, the Toronto couple learned they will be deported on Sunday to two different countries — Solares to her native Guatemala and Orozco to his home country of Colombia. 

They have no family in Canada, she said, so the boy is going with his mother.

"We are very, very, very worried, depressed," Solares told As It Happens guest host Megan Williams. "Mostly, I'm worried about my son."

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada declined to comment, citing privacy rules. However, officials are seeking consent from the family to make a media statement about their case.

It's the first time I've ever experienced a situation where they're splitting up a family like this.- Lorne Waldman, immigration lawyer

Solares left Guatemala for the U.S. in 1998, fleeing her abusive ex-boyfriend, who is a member of a local gang. In California, she met Orozco, who had fled guerillas in Colombia.

She says her own cousin, who is a member of the same gang, tracked her down in California, hit her in the face, and delivered a grim message on behalf of her ex.

"He said, 'If you ever come back to Guatemala, he will kill you,'" Solares said. "I have no chance in Guatemala … They're waiting for me."

Now she fears that if she returns with her son, he will be targeted too. 

"Those people, they don't care if they are kids or adults — they just kill them," she said.

"As soon as he found me and he knows that I have a son, he's going to be there. He's going to be focused on my son."

Solares and Orozco came to Canada together in April 2007 and applied for asylum. Their claims were rejected in 2011. Julien was born in 2012. (Submitted by Jorge Orozco)

Solares and Orozco came to Canada together in April 2007 and applied for asylum. Their claims were rejected in 2011.

Their lawyer Lorne Waldman says immigration officials argued that they could each seek the protection of the state in their home countries, and that Solares can return to a different region of Guatemala to avoid danger. 

But she says those who wish her harm will find her. 

Julien was born in 2012 and the family continued to live in Canada under the radar of immigration authorities— until Orozco got into a car collision last year.

Waldman says the family was initially told they would be deported together to Colombia. But on Friday, they learned they would be separated. 

"I've been doing immigration law for a long time and it's the first time I've ever experienced a situation where they're splitting up a family like this and separating a very young child from one of the two parents," Waldman said.

"And we haven't been provided with any explanation as to why, at the very last minute, they took this sudden decision."

'Suffering significantly'

The family's doctors at the Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care have also taken up their cause, arguing that it is a health risk to separate Julien from his father and send him to live in a country he has never seen before.

"Julien's mental health is suffering significantly. He's now not sleeping. He only knows Canada. It's his country," Dr. Paul Caulford said. 

"This is the beginnings of PTSD in him. He's anxious, he's sad, worried. And it's terrible. And I don't believe that these are Canadian values."

Caulford said this kind of advocacy on behalf of his patients is a key component of his work as a health-care provider.

"It's part of his development, and that's a major concern for me as his family doctor,"  he said. "It's the prescription I can't write."

Humanitarian grounds

Waldman has appealed the family's deportation orders on humanitarian grounds, but hasn't yet received a response.

He's heading to federal court on Friday in an effort to convince a judge to delay the deportation on health grounds until the humanitarian appeal is heard.

"I think we have a strong case and I don't think it's part of our Canadian tradition to separate families," Waldman said.

As for Solares, she's just waiting.

"This is my dream to live in Canada because here in Canada, this is a safe country. You can live in peace here. You can work," she said.

"To have the opportunity to stay in Canada with my family, it'll be the best  for everybody, for Julien's future, for all of us."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interviews with Rosalba Solares and Lorne Waldman produced by Kevin Robertson.