UPDATE, MAY 16, 2011 - About 35 people gathered at the offices of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union on Wellesley St in Toronto on May 15 to organize a plan to prevent the deportation of queer Toronto artist and advocate Alvaro Orozco.
Orozco has been held at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre in Rexdale since he was picked up by Toronto police at Ossington Station on May 13. He is scheduled for a detention review hearing on Tuesday, May 17. Orozco has been living in Toronto, illegally, under a deportation order since October of 2007. So it is not likely that he will be released at the hearing. He may be deported immediately to either Nicaragua or the US, or he may be held pending travel details or the outcome of an outstanding Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations application filed on his behalf. He faces imprisonment in the US and threats against his safety in Nicaragua.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has the authority to grant that application. Orozco’s fate rests in his hands.
“Detention review depends on how well the community is able to access the minister’s ear,” says Toronto immigration lawyer and human-rights activist El-Farouk Khaki. “I actually think that Alvaro has a really good humanitarian compassionate grounds application. His work in the community, his socialization, the advocacy work, his work as an artist, I think speak well for themselves. Somebody has to listen.”
Khaki represented Orozco for his second preremoval risk assessment process and prepared the Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations application for him, but detention reviews are not his area of expertise.
“Everything that was legally available in terms of process, we have done,” says Khaki. “I represented him for two applications; other lawyers have done other applications for him. At this point, ultimately the minister still has jurisdiction to step in.”
“Ideologically speaking, you would think that when Minister Kenney gets to know the real story that he would do the right thing,” says community advocate Suhail Abualsameed. “If it’s out there and if he knows what’s happening, then he will feel compassionate enough to do it.”
Abualsameed organizes the Newcomer and Immigrant Queer Youth Project at Supporting Our Youth (SOY). He first met Orozco in 2007 and has worked with him ever since.
“He’s gone through a lot and has been through this situation many times in the last 12 years,” says Abualsameed. “He’s very resilient, he’s very nervous and anxious. At the same time he’s resigned to the fact that whatever will be will be. So, his demeanour is comfortable at times and sometimes he overthinks things.”
Abualsameed and Khaki say one way for community members to help is to contact Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
. Urge Kenney to grant residency to Orozco based on his Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations application. If you know Orozco personally, telling Kenney about his contributions to Toronto's gay community and the dangers facing him if he is deported are likely to be most helpful.
Secondly, join the Let Alvaro Stay Facebook page
. There you will find details about other upcoming events and more ways you can help as they emerge.
* * *
MAY 15, 10:15am -
Gay artist Alvaro Orozco was arrested in Toronto on Friday, May 13.
Orozco, now 25, fled Nicaragua to the United States when he was 12 after, he says, his father beat him for being gay. He lived illegally in the US until 2005, when he came to Toronto. At his initial refugee hearing in October of 2006, Immigration and Refugee Board member Deborah Lamont told him via teleconference from Calgary that she didn’t believe that he is gay.
His story made headlines in Canada and in Nicaragua.
Orozco’s subsequent appeals were denied. He was scheduled to be deported in October of 2007 and has been in hiding ever since.
Read his story here.
A community meeting is scheduled for 2pm, Sunday, May 15 at 31 Wellesley St E in Toronto.
More on Orozco and the May 15 meeting, snipped from an email to Xtra, below.....
*Queer Artist Alvaro Orozco Arrested by Immigration Enforcement.*
*Urgent Community Meeting
2pm. 31 Wellesley East
Sunday, 15 May 2011
*Let Alvaro Stay Campaign
At 8pm on Friday evening, award-winning undocumented queer artist Alvaro
Orozco was arrested on his way to dinner with friends. Now in detention at
the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, he faces imminent deportation to
An accomplished artist and dedicated advocate for queer and newcomer youth,
Alvaro's love for art and commitment to community has captured the
appreciation and respect of thousands of people in Toronto. He received the
2010 Street-Level Advocate Award from the Toronto Youth Cabinet and City of
Toronto in recognition of his work with queer and newcomer youth.
Alvaro first rose to national prominence in 2007 when his refugee claim was
denied on the basis that he did not look "gay enough" for the adjudicator
hearing his case via a television screen in Calgary.
This story was picked up by the largest newspapers in Nicaragua,
effectively "outing" him to the entire country he left at age 12 due to
severe physical abuse by a father who threatened to "kill any child of his
that was homosexual."
Alvaro, now 25, is still waiting for a decision on his Humanitarian and
Compassionate (H&C) application.
Friends and supporters of Alvaro are meeting to move quickly to stay his
deportation. It is critical that we keep this strong voice in our community.
*Alvaro's Accomplishments & Exhibits*
- Volunteer/Mentor with Supporting Our Youth (SOY)
- Mayworks Festival, Toronto, 2011
- Toronto Youth Cabinet, 2010 Identify & Impact Awards, Street-Level
Advocate Award Winner
- Migrant Expressions Photography Exhibition, Montreal, 2009
- Under the Bridge Art Exhibition, Toronto, 2009
- Jumblies Theatre, Prop-Maker and Photographer, Toronto, 2009
- Refugee Rights Day, Toronto City Hall, Toronto, 2008
- ArtWherk Collective 2007, Pride Art Exhibition, Toronto, 2007