Friends and supporters of Jose Figueroa rallied Saturday to call for the longtime Langley resident to be allowed to stay in Canada.
Several dozen people turned out and lined part of 88th Avenue near the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, where Figueroa has been staying to avoid deportation.
Pastor Karl Keller said it was heartwarming to see all the people who turned out for the event.
Keller has urged Canada Border Services and immigration officials to use common sense.
Figueroa is originally from El Salvador, and came to Canada more than 15 years ago as a refugee.
Figueroa was a member of the left-wing FMLN, which fought against the forces of the right-wing military government. After the war ended, the FMLN put down its arms and became a legitimate political party.
However, Figueroa has been told he is being expelled because the FMLN is considered a terrorist organization, despite it not appearing on the public government list of terrorist groups. The current president of El Salvador is a member of the FMLN party.
Also supporting Figueroa and his family were local politicians.
"I think this has gone on long enough, it's five years!" said Langley City Councillor Rosemary Wallace.
"He is a man of peace," she said of Figueroa.
Coun. Dave Hall also called for the Canadian government to stop trying to send Figueroa back to El Salvador.
"I want to believe that I live in a country that is humane and compassionate," he said.
He hoped that rallies like this one would build momentum for change.
Figueroa is remaining in the church, claiming sanctuary.
Although this is not a recognized legal way to avoid deportation, government authorities have long been reluctant to arrest people for deportation from churches.
Figueroa's wife can remain in Canada, and his children are Canadian citizens as they were born here.
Figueroa told the Langley Advance that he does not want to be separated from his family and consequently be forced to parent his children by phone or Skype.
@ Copyright 2013