A Salvadoran man detained by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials at the Peace Bridge last week wants Canada to come to his rescue before he is deported to El Salvador.
Mario Martinez, 26, learned recently that his 2-year-old request for political asylum in Canada was denied. He entered this country Wednesday expecting to remain here while Canadian officials reviewed his second request for asylum.
But U.S. immigration officials in Buffalo learned that Martinez had been expelled previously for entering the United States illegally, and under recent changes in immigration law, he was ordered held for deportation.
"Earlier this year, Congress reinstated the old orders of deportation," explained John J. Ingham, acting district director of INS.
Martinez, Ingham said, "was previously deported, so there was no need for a hearing even. We will be moving him out promptly."
Danielle Martinez said she fears for her husband's life. He left El Salvador after being targeted for assassination by members of a Salvadoran death squad, she said. The squad murdered Martinez's brother two years ago and more recently killed his sister, Mrs. Martinez said.
"The Canadian government doesn't want to admit that El Salvador is unsafe for some people," she said.
Mrs. Martinez is a Canadian citizen. The couple met in September 1996. They married in June and lived in Windsor, Ont. Mrs. Martinez said they were in the process of seeking spousal sponsorship for her husband to remain legally in Canada when they learned his application for political asylum had been denied.
They drove Tuesday from Windsor to the Peace Bridge to cross into Buffalo. They had intended to drive from Buffalo to Detroit, which shares its international border with the city of Windsor. Mrs. Martinez said they were told by Canadian immigration officials that because Martinez had entered Canada through Buffalo two years ago, it was best he return the same way.
In October 1995, Martinez had spent time at Vive La Casa, a Buffalo shelter for refugees at 50 Wyoming Ave., while awaiting entry to Canada.
Thursday, the Rev. John Long, executive director of Vive La Casa, pleaded Martinez's case.
"You'd think they would let him stay in Canada until (his second application for asylum) came through, but they don't do that," Long said.
Richard Reinert, another Vive La Casa official, added: "This is really a U.S. situation, not a Canadian one, and largely because of the anti-immigration and anti-refugee . . . laws that have been passed recently.
"The problem here is they (the Martinezes) were following the rules. They were cooperating fully," Reinert said. "They were not told that he faced any danger of being deported until after he got across the bridge. We're splitting up a family because of a law that was passed in the last year."
Mrs. Martinez said her husband was deported after entering the U.S. illegally in Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border, in 1993. She said he was en route to London, Ont., to join an ex-girlfriend from El Salvador who had just given birth to their son in Canada.
Martinez's Windsor lawyer, Marianne P. Kroes, said the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo was asked to intervene. Ultimately, she said, a minister's permit could be issued to Martinez through the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration director in Alberta if he agrees there are "sufficient compassionate and humanitarian grounds to approve the application." That would allow Martinez to re-enter Canada.
Meanwhile, Ms. Kroes is also appealing to a member of Canadian Parliament for help.
But time may be running out.
He was moved from the city jail in Buffalo Thursday and shipped to a facility in Madison County near Syracuse, . From there, Ingham said, he will be deported.
"This is open and shut," Ingham said. "Two times he was deported previously from this country. Normally, this is the kind of case that would be submitted for criminal prosecution."