Sunday, May 6, 2007

Protesters rally against deportation of refugees

immigration rally

Angelica Gallegos-Perez, who stands to be deported, speaks at the rally.

immigration rally

Angelica Gallegos-Perez and her two children make an appearance at the rally.

Sima Zerehi of activist group No One Is Illegal speaks at a rally in Toronto on May 5, 2007

Sima Zerehi of activist group No One Is Illegal speaks at a rally in Toronto on May 5, 20

More than 1,000 protestors rallied at Christie Pits Park in Toronto on Saturday against the scheduled deportation of illegal immigrants.

Among those in attendance was the Gallegos-Perez family, who is scheduled to be deported to Mexico next month.

"I feel so sad, and I want to stay here," said mother Angelica, who could not hold back tears as she addressed the crowd. "Now this is our home."

Angelica, her husband and two children Edgar and Mayra fear for their lives if they are forced to return to Mexico.

The family, who moved to Canada two years ago, has exhausted their live savings in legal fees on applications to apply for asylum on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

There are an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in Canada, with about 80,000 living in Toronto.

Activists at Saturday's march called for an overhaul of the refugee and immigration system that they say is unfair to the poor and working class.

"We would like to see a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy come into effect in Toronto so communities without full immigration status can access essential city services, like educational resources," said Sima Zerehi of the group No One is Illegal.

The group is also calling for an end to deportation and a regulated system that would allow illegal immigrants to stay.

There is a motion before the House of Commons calling for regulization and a moratorium on deportations.

Anti-deportation groups in Toronto highlighted some of the recent, positive changes, including a decision by the Toronto police to no longer ask witnesses and victims of crime their immigration status.

The Toronto District School Board is set to adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy involving its students.

With a report from CTV's Roger Petersen and files from The Canadian Press