Man's family facing deportation to country they've never lived in
Published Friday, February 8, 2019 8:45PM CST
Luiz Rodriguez Bonito is hard at work painting the interior of building. But he doesn't believe he'll be able to finish the job.
"I cannot do it, because I must leave," said Rodriguez Bonito. "I'm not legal here."
Rodriguez Bonito and his family are from Venezuela, a country in the midst of a political and economic crisis. The family used to run a restaurant and hotel supply import business in Venezuela. He had to shut his business down.
One evening in 2014, it became apparent it wasn't just the business that was at risk.
"I was sleeping in my own bed," remembered Miriam Cristina Rodrigues Bonito. "And I woke up with a gun on the top of my head."
"Thank you God, they didn't hurt us," said Luiz. "But they took all our things."
The family decided it was time to get out. Rodriguez Bonito has family in Winnipeg. So in 2015, he came here on a visitor visa along with his wife, daughter, mother, and his sister Miriam.
He hoped to stay through the provincial nominee program. But their application was denied. Bonito says a refugee claim was processed and also denied. And that was not because Venezuela isn't dangerous for them, but because it technically isn't his country of citizenship.
"I live all my life in Venezuela. 35, 40 years. I born in brazil. My parents are Portuguese."
And because Rodriguez Bonito has a Portuguese passport, he and his family are being deported there.
"I have nowhere in Portugal to go,” he said. I have nobody to help me."
An appeal on compassionate grounds was also denied. "When I hear stories like this, and there are rejections, I'm disappointed but not surprised," said Winnipeg immigration lawyer David Matas. Mata says humanitarian applications in Canada are generally approved about 50 per cent of the time. However many of the successful cases involve people with Canadian spouses. "When you take those couples out of the equation the percentage goes down."
The process leaves families like the Rodriguez Bonitos few options, other than a one way trip to a country he doesn't know. Their plane tickets have been purchased. Unless the Canadian Government has a sudden change of heart, they'll be flying to Portugal on Feb. 18.
Officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada tell CTV News there was little evidence to substantiate allegations of risk upon return to Venezuela. It says that the family had lived in Venezuela for the majority of their lives, and submitted little evidence of difficulty seeking employment in the past.
It also says the officer looking into their case noted the family was familiar with Venezuela's culture and customs, and considered this in the context of the best interests of the child as well.