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Honduran family that faced deportation in 2017 happily sworn in as Canadian citizens in Sask.

Wednesday was a very happy day for an immigrant family in Moosomin, Sask. Three members of Victor Santos’ family became Canadian citizens.

“We are very excited, so happy. It’s a big day for us,” said Lesi Cardoza, Santos’ wife.

Her road to citizenship was particularly bumpy.

Santos says he left his home country of Honduras in 2007 after witnessing the murder of a journalist on the street and receiving death threats himself.

His family first came to Toronto in 2011 and initially applied for refugee status there. They later moved to Moosomin, Sask., 140 miles southeast of Regina.

Santos, Cardoza and their two children, Victor Mauricio, 18, and Edward Santos, 11, lived in Moosomin for several years. In 2017 they received a deportation order.

Santos’ recent application for refugee status in Canada was denied for not providing enough evidence to substantiate the family’s fears of returning to Honduras. Santos said he made efforts to confirm him from outside the country.

Their youngest child, Edward, was born in Canada and was not subject to the deportation order.

“We only had about two weeks,” Mauricio said. “Our deportation tickets were already booked. We really had no other choice. [But] we didn’t want to accept defeat.”

The Santos family before the deportation order in 2017. (Yvonne Slugoski)

A community effort

The small but powerful town of Moosomin sided with the family, distributed a petition, organized a letter campaign and called out the media so the story of the Santos family could reach as many people as possible.

“At that time I gave up a bit. But at the same time I stand up and say: ‘No, it’s not the time, even if we have a deportation date. We have our family. We know that we are strong and we have to move on’ ” Santos said.

The federal government got through just in time. The family had reached out to then-Saskatchewan State Assemblyman and Secretary of Public Safety Ralph Goodale for help. A federal immigration officer told the Honduran family that they would be granted a temporary work permit.

This bought them a little time, and in 2018 they became permanent residents. Now they are citizens.

“We persevered in the end and… our dreams came true,” Mauricio said.

Santos said life has been good for the family since then. They have a house and good jobs. His son Mauricio said Moosomin is very hospitable to immigrants and there are many opportunities there.

“I really like how welcoming the community is,” said Mauricio. “I think that’s what attracts immigrants here. It is seen as a safe haven, a home, a place to feel loved and welcome.”

The family wants everyone to know that this Wednesday’s dedication ceremony is a result of their community’s support.

“We’re not here to celebrate. We’re here to celebrate their hard work and everything they’ve done for us. Really, really, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. The ceremony… we really owe it to them,” Mauricio said.

The family said they hope to celebrate with food and festivities with Moosomin friends in the coming days.

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