New petition to reunite the Ramirez family
Dara and Juan Ramirez and their four children together in northern Iraq just before Christmas. Dara is fighting hard to bring her husband home to Wolfville. Submitted
BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Ten-year-old Orlando Ramirez usually keeps his emotions in check, but last week he signed an online petition begging, ‚Äúlet my dad come back.‚ÄĚ
The separation of the Ramirez family began five years ago - a very long time in the life of a child of the four Ramirez children.
Dara and Juan met at the Gunn Baldursson soccer tournament in Wolfville in 1998.
In October 2006, immigration officials deported Wolfville businessman and local soccer builder Juan Ramirez to his native Colombia. Both he and his wife Dara have been battling ever since to bring him back.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve followed the rules all along the way,‚ÄĚ Dara Ramirez said last week. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs in the hands of (immigration minister) Jason Kenney.‚ÄĚ
The family class immigration application Dara filed in January 2007 was stuck in bureaucratic limbo until last summer. Then, she learned there were outstanding issues around Juan‚Äôs military past in the Colombian air force.
She says he was falsely labeled with crimes against humanity during Colombia‚Äôs civil war.
‚ÄúThere were no crimes. There was no record of crimes,‚ÄĚ Dara says.
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Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison was able to prompt Canadian embassy staff in Colombia to verify that fact.
‚ÄúWe were able to work with the Colombian authorities and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to clear that allegation completely,‚ÄĚ Brison confirms.
‚ÄúWe should be able to reunite a family. The system ought to allow for that,‚ÄĚ he adds.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm working closely with minister Kenney,‚ÄĚ Brison says, ‚Äúbut the rules are incredibly inflexible.‚ÄĚ
Esteemed immigration lawyer Lee Cohen is also working on behalf of the Ramirez family to present new evidence.
Until February, Dara and Juan were together in Kurdistan in northern Iraq for almost two years while she taught at an American university. She says an Acadia University grad helped locate the job for her.
‚ÄúI never thought we‚Äôd end up in the Middle East. From the emotional perspective, we left our friends and life in Canada, but it was a temporary loss. We never thought it would be long term.‚ÄĚ
Relocating the family to another continent was a huge move, she says, but a great fit because Juan was home with the kids while she was in the classroom. When the family returned to Wolfville, Juan had to go back to Colombia.
Now Dara has launched an online petition in a further effort to bring her husband home with a permanent residency certificate. As of press time, it had close to 200 signatures.
We should be able to reunite a family. The system ought to allow for that. Scott Brison
Dara hopes people with a heart will look at the big picture and add their names to the petition. She is aware of how much her children, ages two to ten, miss their father.
The former Acadia University women‚Äôs varsity soccer coach is essentially a single mom. She keeps busy coaching summer camps, overseeing the family soccer store, Juandaros Soccer Boutique, and nurturing her kids.
Many Wolfville residents have demonstrated their support for a reunited Ramirez family.
In 2009 friends and supporters, including the Wolfville Interchurch Council, held an awareness exercise at Acadia University in which people were photographed with a life size image of Juan.
In 2007, letter writing and bracelet campaigns were started to show support for Juan. The blue and white bracelets read, ‚ÄúReunite a Family.‚ÄĚ and sported the Canadian and Colombian flags.
To sign the petition to bring Juan Ramirez home, click here.