International students at University of Regina facing deportation to Nigeria
Making a very big mistake while getting a job in Regina is costing a lot for two international students in the city.
Ihoma Amadi and Victoria Ordu have been hiding in a church since June facing deportation to Nigeria if they are found.
Like many other university students they chose to work part time while they were studying. They were hired for jobs off campus last summer but say they didn't realize they were breaking the law.
Amadi says it was just two weeks after she started working at Walmart in August last year when her nightmare began.
"He presented a badge to me and he told me that I had been arrested for working illegally in Canada," she explains.
Remembering how the officers hauled her away in handcuffs, she describes feeling humiliated but also very confused.
"I initially thought that I could work on my social insurance card which was given to me by the university because I did have a job in school," Amadi said.
She wasn't the first person to make that mistake. Victoria Ordu thought the same thing when she was hired to work at Walmart doing product demonstrations a few months earlier.
Ordu says she only realized her mistake after talking to a different international student who was applying for a work permit.
Ordu says as soon as she realized that she wasn't allowed to work off campus, she quit right away. Weeks later, she was also arrested by Canada Border Services.
Barb Pollock is the Vice President of External Affairs for the University of Regina. She says it is legal for the girls to work but not at the jobs they got last year.
"International students can work on campus, that happens in Canada, not just at the U of R," she said, explaining the purpose of the social insurance numbers for students.
Amadi and Ordu have both say they told the truth immediately when they were first questioned. In the months that followed they say they cooperated with every step of the investigation. Ordu even handed over her email password to an officer and watched as he forwarded a copy of the email she sent to her boss when she quit, but none of it mattered when it came to her hearing.
For Amadi, it took two more months to find out that her appeal was also declined.
"When I told my parents about the whole situation, they were devastated," she said.
Both students are on government scholarships from Nigeria and want to return to work there.
"This is the end of it, you came down to Canada with hopes of getting a good degree, with hope of getting something to go back home to show for it, it's just like everything was going to go down the drain like that," Amadi explained.
They were scheduled to be deported this June but they took the desperate measure of seeking sanctuary in a church.
"By that point I was just left with no other alternative you know it was like the war just came crashing to my feet, I couldn't do any other thing because that was my only hope," Amadi said.
With the help of a local immigration consultant Kay Adebogun, they started writing letters to the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney pleading for a pardon.
Adebogun says the usual punishment for this type of violation would be to temporarily suspend their student visas and make them re-apply. He says the fees up to $500 would be enough to teach them the lesson. That's why Adebogun was surprised when he found out they were getting the ultimate penalty of deportation.
He is not the only one supporting the girls. The administration at the university right up to its president Vianne Timmons is supporting them.
Pollock maintains they want their students to uphold the law and understand consequences, but in this case, the punishment may not fit the crime.
"We're concerned that the penalty for the mistakes they've made or the laws they've contravened may be a bit harsh," Pollock commented.
"We have asked the federal government to intervene and re-consider their decision to deport the two students."
She says the U of R has been contacting the federal government on behalf of these students all summer but hasn't had any response.
Edited by CJME's Karen Brownlee.