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Abbotsford family leaves sanctuary after deportation order lifted

The Juhasz family (from left) Patrik, Marianna and Tamas relax in their temporary new home with family dog Hope. Now that a deportation order has been lifted, they have moved out of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, where they sought sanctuary for two years. - Dan Ferguson/Black Press
The Juhasz family (from left) Patrik, Marianna and Tamas relax in their temporary new home with family dog Hope. Now that a deportation order has been lifted, they have moved out of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, where they sought sanctuary for two years.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Black Press

by Dan Ferguson, Black Press

An Abbotsford mother and two sons who lived in sanctuary at a Langley church for more than two years will be allowed to stay in Canada.

Marianna Juhasz and her sons, Patrik and Tamas, quietly left Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in December after the deportation order to send them back to their home country of Hungary was lifted.

“My lawyer filed an appeal with a lot more supporting documents and made my case,” Juhasz told Black Press.

She said the first thing she did on confirming the decision by immigration authorities was to take her border collie, Hope, for a walk outside the church, located on 88 Avenue near 204 Street.

Until then, she would only walk the dog in the walled-off courtyard at the back of the church, rather than risk arrest.

Juhasz said she is working again, and she and her two sons are now sharing a residence with a friend while they save up for a place of their own.

There was a supporters-only celebration at the Langley church before they departed.

She said she is grateful to the people who helped her and her sons during their six-year struggle to find refuge in Canada.

“I’m just thankful for everything,” Juhasz said.

“Fresh air, sun, food (being able to) go to work or anywhere.”

The Abbotsford family moved into the church on Nov. 30, 2014, after spending 18 days in hiding, afraid they could be arrested by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and deported.

Marianna had applied to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds, saying she fled to Canada in 2010 with her children after finding out her youngest son was being abused by his father.

She was estranged from Tamas’ father, but he was still allowed to see his son every second weekend.

An English-language report from the Pal Bugat hospital in the town of Gyöngyös, Hungary, showed Marianna Juhasz was treated for an injury to one arm around the time of an alleged violent assault.

The report described her arm as “bruised and sensitive” and said it was not an accident, but inflicted “by a person” who was not identified.

A different document referred to Tamas being slapped.

The family ended up at the Langley church after they tried and failed to get sanctuary at several churches in their hometown.

At the time, Walnut Grove Lutheran was providing sanctuary to José Figueroa, a Langley resident who was fighting an order deporting him to El Salvador.

The then-pastor of the Langley church, Dr. Karl Keller, told Black Press he approached several Abbotsford churches on behalf of the Juhasz family, but none was willing to give them shelter.

“I guess that’s why they ended up with us,” Keller said.

The now-retired pastor said there was resistance from some members of the congregation who didn’t like the idea of the Juhasz family staying in the church when it was already providing sanctuary to another person.

That debate ended, Keller said, when they were reminded of the Biblical book of John, Chapter 3, Verse 17, which asks (in the New International Version) “if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

“We had the material means to help,” the pastor said.

Keller said he was “elated” by the decision to rescind the Juhasz deportation order, but not surprised.

“I just thought this (case) was a slam-dunk,” Keller said.

“It was just a matter of getting all the facts from Hungary before the immigration minister.”

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