Sometimes you come across newspaper articles that tell us just how far the world has drifted down the path of insanity. I’m typing these words after reading that over 170 children are incarcerated in a former maximum security prison in Texas. Euphemistically called the “T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center”, it serves as a holding tank for people who don't have proper documentation to enter the United States.
Among those 170 children is a 9-year-old Canadian citizen named Kevin, along with his Iranian mother and father. Deported from Canada, his parents had been so desperate to return to Canada that they had hired human smugglers to sneak them back. Majid and Masomeh (they don't use their last name) originally come to Canada in 1995 seeking political asylum due to fear of persecution in Iran. In 1997 Kevin was born in Canada and automatically became a Canadian citizen. This did not stop the Canadian government from deporting Kevin and his parents in 2005 – 10 years after they had applied for refugee status! – because they did not meet the requirements to qualify as political refugees.
During those 10 years here Kevin had reached third grade in school and Majid had managed to gain full time employment to support the family. Nonetheless they were deported to Iran – a country completely alien to Kevin and that his parents had done their very best to forget.
What kind of government lets a family live in its country for 10 years before deciding to deport them? What was the point dispatching them to a bad fate? Are we, in short, talking about unfeeling creeps who don’t give a shit about individuals but only about appearances – getting “tough” on Muslims.
In order to successfully apply as a refugee seeking political asylum in Canada, you have to prove you fear physical violence against yourself and your family. How many refugees are going to return to their local police station and request documents specifying the arrest order, or the piece of paper stating they are going to be tortured?
I know that's awfully negligent on their part, and they probably should make more of an effort, but they're not like us, are they? That's the problem with refugees, they're just so different from the rest of us, and they don't know how to behave. Why, I'm sure any decent person would have made certain that relevant paperwork was in order – you would have, wouldn't you?
When Kevin and his family's plane landed in Tehran, Majid was immediately arrested and hauled off to jail where he was tortured and beaten for three months. After being released, friends and family began to make arrangements for getting the family out of the country again. They contacted a smuggler who got them to Turkey for $20,000 and for another $20,000 would get them to Canada.
They took a flight to Guyana, where they were booked on a direct flight to Toronto. Because they were traveling on Greek passports they had no need of entry visas for getting into Canada, so they weren't questioned getting on the plane.
Unfortunately a fellow passenger had a heart attack and died, and the plane was forced to land in Puerto Rico so emergency crews could remove the body. During the unscheduled stopover they were forced to go through immigration, where they were detained because with Greek passports they would need visas to enter the United States. They were held in Puerto Rico for five days before being shipped to the confines of Texas.
This was in spite of the fact that not only was their plane never supposed to have landed in the United States. They repeatedly insisted they didn't want to go to America. Maybe American immigration officials thought they had deliberately killed the fellow passenger so they could sneak into the States or that they were planning to parachute from the plane before it reached Toronto. They may even have been planning on hijacking the plane and using it as a weapon.
Better safe then sorry when dealing with Iranians, especially ones who have no desire to come to the United States. That only shows there is something wrong with them. They'd rather go to Canada than the U.S. Yes, it is true they were traveling under false documents, but they would have never come into contact with American immigration officials if not for a freak accident, and American demands that they go through customs for no reason. This should have been a problem for Canadian authorities to sort out, especially considering the status of the child.
Now they sit and rot in a Texas jail, and Canadian authorities are doing squat for them. If the Canadian government wants to help one of its young citizens it will have to let his parents live in Canada to look after him: Parents who have already proven themselves to be responsible citizens, and whose refugee claim should have been taken seriously in the first place.
According to Audrey Macklin, a professor of immigration at the University of Toronto, a case exists for a pre-risk removal assessment based on what happened to Majid when he was returned to Iran the last time. The assessment will determine the level of risk he faces if removed again from Canada and sent back to Iran and the level of risk he presents to the Canadian public. So far, the best the Canadian government has been able to come up with is some halfhearted comment about maybe being able to help Kevin but being able to do nothing for his parents.
Meantime, they don't coddle families in Texas. Everybody has to get up at 5:30 am for showers, they have 15 minutes to eat meals, everyone must go to bed at 9:30 pm with laser-triggered alarms activated if anyone strays, and they are locked down three times a day for one hour for a head count.
And this is what Texas calls a residential, non-secure setting. Damn. I'd hate to see what they call a secure facility. Hutto sounds like most maximum-security prisons in Canada, and not a detention centre for families who are awaiting decisions on their fate as refugee applicants or whether or not they are going to be allowed to continue their journeys before they were so rudely interrupted.
Nine-year-old Kevin has become so desperate that he has written a letter to Prime Minister Steven Harper of Canada, begging him for help. He might get lucky, because Canadians are facing an election and depending how the public react to his plight, Kevin might find himself the beneficiary of prime ministerial intervention.
If Harper senses he can make political hay out of this, he will charter a plane to take him to Texas so he can bring little Kevin and his family to Toronto personally. But if it looks like the public doesn’t care, you can bet he will issue a statement expressing sympathy and his belief that the system will work out alright in the end. The Prime Minister can't be seen showing favouritism if it's not going to win him significant points with the voters.
These situations tell me where true evil resides. It lies in the inherent lack of compassion that we imbue all our systems with. We encourage those carrying out orders not to get emotionally involved, and to treat each case the same, with no deviations. Situations and people are never unique. All you need do is process some forms. Don’t worry about whether you have sentenced someone to torture and possible death because they don’t qualify for refugee status.
Better luck next time, Kevin. If your family hadn’t been deported from Canada, you would be in the fifth grade now, and maybe your Dad would have received a job promotion.