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Immigrant crackdown derails studies

Scholarship winner to be deported as Ottawa gets tough with illegals
September 22, 2008 - The Toronto Star

A crackdown by the Canada Border Services Agency after a report uncovered 41,000 unaccounted for illegal immigrants is derailing a young Bangladeshi man's last years at the University of Toronto.

Saad Alam was starting his third year of a life sciences degree with a hope of medical school in the future. The 23-year-old has lived in the GTA for five years and the U.S. for nine before that. He and his parents are being deported to Bangladesh at the end of the month.

"They're very strict about removals these days," said Anita Balakrishna, the lawyer representing the Alam family. "It's a reaction to the auditor general's report."

Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported on May 6 that Canada Border Services had lost track of 41,000 illegal immigrants who had been ordered deported. Most are said to be failed refugee claimants.

Badrul and Shammi Alam and their son, Saad, lost their bid for refugee status in 2004 and their two appeals, one based on compassionate grounds, the other on fear of persecution, on the same day as the auditor general's report.

"It's not a fair decision but I understand we have to go back," Badrul Alam said. His appeal was based on the risk of harm because of his Jatiya Party connections. "We would only like the authorities to let my son finish his education."

The Alams lost a refugee claim in the United States and were living illegally, but life changed after Sept. 11, 2001. "They were calling my son Taliban in school," said Alam.

The family set down roots in Mississauga. Badrul works as a security guard and cab driver, and Shammi in two nursing homes as a personal support worker, as well as for the Canadian Red Cross, to pay Saad's tuition. They bought a house, Badrul writes for the weekly Banfla Kagol newspaper in Mississauga and created the youth magazine Probashi Tarunno. Saad graduated from Birchmount Collegiate and won a scholarship to the U of T, where he is vice-president of the Bangladesh Student Federation.

Balakrishna tried to get Saad a temporary permit to study but the strict deportation orders require the family make all their applications from Bangladesh, she said.