Family reunites with daughter, sister

Before Doris came to Hamilton, she and her husband were experiencing persecution. Like many Colombians, they made plans to flee unrest. Faced with a difficult decision, Doris and her husband fled to the United States leaving their four-year-old daughter, Angie, with her two grandmothers, in hopes of reuniting soon. Little did they know, it would be eight years until they could be with each other again.

“I thought that separation from Angie was going to be for a year until we settled in the United States”, Doris explained. “It was a tough decision to make. I still remember how emotional it was for me. That moment will stay with me all my life.”

In the United States, Doris and her husband faced many unexpected immigration issues. She gave birth to her second daughter, Stephanie, who was born in 2003. With no progress in their immigration status, Angie was still in Colombia unable to cross the border.

“I was very down. I missed my daughter and numerous nights I planned to go back to Colombia. I gathered the strength to fight”, she said.

Seven years later, Doris lost all hope that the United States would be their new home. The separation from her daughter was very painful, and she did not know how much longer she would have to wait to hear from immigration if they could stay.

“It was very hard for me to give my daughter the same explanation again and again, that soon we would be together. Every New Year we had the same wish to be together and we prayed for it”, she said.

Without any progress in their situation, she and her husband decided to take a risk and head to Canada in hopes of claiming refugee status.

“I wanted with all my heart to see Angie. I wanted my two daughters to get to know each other and to grow up together, but I also knew that going back to Colombia would be very dangerous for my family.”

Soon after, the family arrived in Canada wanting to become active members of Canadian society. They began attending English classes, going to information sessions and taking every opportunity to learn more about Canadian culture. Doris recognizes the community services as what made her transition to Canada successful.

“I am very grateful to all settlement and community services that my family and I have received since we came to Canada. We didn’t have such help in the United States.”

One year later, in 2009, Doris and her family were granted convention refugee status. They were thrilled knowing their eight year struggle would come to an end.

“It is hard for me to explain my feelings when we received the letter of acceptance, the feelings of happiness, joy, and the urge to share the news with Angie immediately”, she said.

“For both of us, the news was like a dream. Angie asked her usual question, ‘When will I come to Canada?’ And this time I answered ‘Very soon’.”

Soon after, they applied for Permanent Residence in Canada. Near the same time, Angie received an application from the Canadian Embassy in Columbia to come and join her parents.

Desperate to celebrate her 15 birthday in Canada, Angie began setting her hopes high. In Colombia, girls have a big celebration called Quinceanera on their fifteenth birthday. Angie wanted nothing more than to have her celebration in Canada with her family.

In February 2011, Doris and her family received their permanent resident card and Angie turned fourteen.

“My daughter was so desperate to come to Canada before her 15th birthday, she was crying and begging me every day to bring her here. I went to my MPP, to settlement services and to any place that I heard of and I thought might accelerate the processing of my daughter’s application.”

Angie received a letter from the Canadian Embassy with requirements to finalize her Canadian visa in July 2011. After 8 years of separation, Angie was able to reunite with her family in Canada. Her dream had come true. In February 2012 she will be fifteen years old. Happy Birthday Angie!

By Nada Tuta, Immigrant Women’s Centre | Photo by Michelle Drew

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