Vigil of support for Figueroa at Walnut Grove church

A vigil will be held Friday for Langley’s Jose Figueroa this Saturday, while he remains inside a local church to avoid deportation.

On Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. people will gather at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church to mark four years since Figueroa began his attempt to win landed status in Canada.

A refugee claimant, Figueroa has spent the last year and a half in the church having claimed sanctuary. Canadian Border Services officials have not gone into the church to arrest him, but he does not dare leave the church itself.

The vigil will mark four years since the campaign for Figueroa began.

Figueroa came to Canada as a refugee from El Salvador in 1997 with his wife. His children, born here, are Canadian citizens. Yet since the early 2000s, Figueroa has been fighting to stay.

The issue is his membership in the 1980s of the FMLN, the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional. In that decade, the FMLN was fighting against the former military regime of El Salvador. Figueroa helped recruit but was not involved in the armed conflict.

Since the conclusion of the civil war, the FMLN has become a legitimate political party, and presently rules El Salvador after the country’s last election.

However, Canadian immigration officials and the Canada Border Services Agencey (CBSA) have claimed that Figueroa cannot stay in the country because they consider him a former member of a terrorist organization. On Oct. 4 last year, faced with a deportation order, he moved into the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, and he hasn’t been outside since.

“If I step outside of the church, they will make an arrest,” he said.

He spends his time working on his case, reading up on immigration law on the church’s computer, and spends the weekends with his visiting wife and children. He takes part in church services and activities inside the building, such as weekly zumba classes.

Figueroa has won some limited legal victories, including rulings that the FMLN was never a listed terrorist organization, but the government is still seeking to deport him. Figueroa does not want to leave behind his family.

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