Daniel Garcia, an 18-year-old Toronto student, was deported to Mexico on Saturday after a last-minute attempt to stay the decision failed. Supporters, who include politicians, school board officials, Daniel’s teachers and fellow students, and groups such as No One Is Illegal, organized petitions and rallies (held Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) out of concern that he will face violence in Mexico because his older sister Brenda is a lesbian. Brenda was deported last Monday, petition- and rally-free. Something is wrong with this.
In 2007, Daniel and Brenda arrived in Canada and filed for refugee status saying that they faced death and persecution in Mexico because Brenda is gay (she says she was threatened and her partner was shot to death for being gay). Their claim was rejected.
At a rally last Friday, Hillel Heinstein, Daniel’s English language teacher, said, “He has heard from others, from his family there, that people have said that they’re going to finish the job, that they’re going to come out and kill him and his sister. We are not simply here because we like Daniel, because we think he’s a good person, because he’s an integral part of our community. We are here because of that, but we also fear for his safety.”
In her decision rejecting a temporary stay, Federal Court Justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer said that Daniel has acted with “complete disregard for Canada’s immigration laws” after he failed to appear for removal twice, disobeyed conditions of his release, and failed to report a change of address.
While Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, would have been able to approve a request for a stay on Daniel’s deportation, a representative from his office told the Canadian Press, “I can say that, like all failed asylum seekers facing deportation, [Mr. Garcia] has benefited from all of the rights and privileges available to asylum seekers. Nobody is deported until after they have exhausted their appeals; however, once that has happened, we expect them to leave our country and respect Canadian law.” A similar request was also turned down earlier by Vic Toews, the Public Safety Minister.
According to Daniel’s lawyer, Guidy Mamann, Daniel’s problems with paperwork and evidence are due to the fact that his previous legal advocate died (according to the Immigration and Refugee Board, not knowing about procedures is not a valid defense).
At a rally last Friday, Cheri DiNovo, the NDP Member of Provincial Parliament for Daniel’s school district, said that deporting Daniel is against Canadian values: “We ask every immigration official to search their own hearts and their souls and to really say, ‘Is this the Canada we want to live in – a Canada that sends a (teenager) to a probable death because of homophobia?’”
According to a 2007 report by the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 332 homophobia-based murders occurred in Mexico between 1995 to 2004. The same report notes the Citizens’ Commission Against Homophobic Hate Crimes, a Mexico City-based organization, places the number at 996.
While there have been petitions and rallies and media coverage about Daniel’s deportation, there is very little information available about his sister. It’s one thing to face threats due to supporting someone else’s sexuality – and another thing entirely to face them yourself – but it’s Daniel, not Brenda, who received a lot of support. There are several possible reasons for this: Daniel, as a student, has better access to a community likely to feel paternal/protective towards him, while Brenda, 30, doesn’t; he has the “Canada sends teenager to possible death” angle; and it was also Daniel who recently reported he’d been threatened, while threats against Brenda, though substantive (her partner was murdered, why are more people not bothered by this?), are less recent. But I am still annoyed. I’m annoyed that when I tried to find more information about Brenda there wasn’t any, whereas the Internet is full of syndicated news stories and Facebook pages and rants in support of Daniel. I’m annoyed that most of the “discourse,” which is how I’m going to refer to the comments on the Globe and Mail articles (even though some of them appear to be written by the love child of a YouTube commentator and a dysfunctional T9 dictionary), is along the lines of “toss this illegal immediately” and ignores anything of value. And most of all, I’m annoyed that more people are paying attention to a young straight man than to a youngish gay woman, as if being murdered because of your identity or that of someone related to you gets less horrible with age.
It’s not just that I don’t want to live in – as DiNovo put it – a country that might send a teenager to death because of probable homophobia; I don’t want to live in a country that would send anyone to death because of probable homophobia. Especially if they’re actually gay.