Mariann Juhasz

Mariann Juhasz

UPDATE: Abbotsford family facing deportation finds sanctuary at Langley church

Mariann Juhasz and her sons have joined José Figueroa at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church to avoid being sent back to Hungary

An Abbotsford mother and her two sons have joined Langley’s José Figueroa in sanctuary at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church.

Mariann Juhasz and her sons Patrik, 17, and Tamas, 12, arrived at the church on Nov. 30 after spending 18 days in hiding, fearing they would be arrested by Canadian Border Service Agency officers and deported to their home country of Hungary.

“We asked many churches for sanctuary and they all said no, until we spoke with Pastor Karl Keller (of Walnut Grove Lutheran),” said Patrik.

“Before that we we so scared, living in four different places before coming here. Always watching our back.”

Finally, the family feels safe, he said.

“Once we stepped inside this church, the freedom I felt was like the four years we have lived in Canada,” said Patrik.

With four people now in sanctuary, Walnut Grove Lutheran holds more than 55 per cent of the all the people living in sanctuary in B.C.

On Oct. 21, the CBSA told the family they were scheduled to be deported on Nov. 12. Immigration Canada had rejected Mariann’s request to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds. She fled Hungary four years ago, 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.

The psychological damage of the abuse is documented by therapists Tamas has seen in Canada and by his inability to cope with stress.

When he learned he would be deported, Tamas fainted on the table at the Vancouver CBSA office, said Patrik.

The family claims they banged on the window and screamed for help, but weren’t able to wake Tamas.

“We were so scared. We question why it took them around five minutes to respond,” said Patrik.

An ambulance was called. Tamas could not eat and was throwing up — overcome by fear of being deported, said his brother.

Tamas told his family he would commit suicide before going back to his father in Hungary.

In its decision, the Immigration Review Board member recognized that Tamas had been abused, but noted that Hungary is on Canada’s safe list.

The family’s refugee claim was turned down after the Canadian government deemed that they “would not be subject to risk of persecution, danger of torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” if they returned to their home country.

Mariann disagrees.

“If we go back, the Hungary, police could be waiting for me at the airport to arrest me,” she said.

“Then Tamas will go to live with his father and he will die.”

Fathers have overriding rights in Hungary, she said. Mariann explains that they came to Canada instead of another country in Europe to avoid being arrested. Because of the European Union agreement, police from Hungary have the right and ability to arrest her in any country within the union.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking for the Abbotsford family to be allowed to stay in Canada.

Since they sought sanctuary in the church, friends and co-workers, as well as both boys’ teachers and Mariann’s bosses have stopped by.

“We have had so many people come visit,” said Mariann. “My boss came to say he can offer me full-time if I could (come back to work).”

Before going into hiding, Mariann worked three jobs, including one at the food court at Sevenoaks Mall.

Sevenoaks general manager Wendy Schultz said the Juhasz family has flourished in Canada, with both boys attending school and Mariann working hard to remain self-sufficient.

“We were not collecting welfare, there was no child benefits, my mom paid taxes,” said Patrik. “We were just living a good life, waiting for our papers.”

In Abbotsford, Patrik was involved in football and Tamas played basketball at school.

“The boys are always outside playing sports — always,” said Mariann.

Now they cannot step outside the church or they risk being arrested. Supporters of the family are providing financial aid, food and plenty of support, telling Pastor Karl they will take care of them.

Figueroa said he has been working out with Patrik, “to keep me from getting a belly this Christmas.”

The church, for its part, has embraced the new family. One member of the congregation stopped on Thursday with four boxes of hot pizza.

“The congregation is showing their compassion and their faith,” said Figueroa.

Now awaiting a re-review of his own case, the father of three from El Salvador is helping the Hungarian family look through their deportation order.

The Canadian Border Services Agency issued a warrant for Figueroa’s arrest in October 2013. That was when he sought sanctuary in the church, rather than be deported to Central America.

Figueroa recognizes that it can be a huge burden for a church to take in people seeking sanctuary, but he urges more churches to do so.

Keller looked to scripture to know he as a pastor and man of God must grant this family sanctuary.

But he wonders why a church in Abbotsford didn’t help out.

“I called a bunch of churches in Abbotsford but none would take them,” said Keller. “It is so surprising. They say Abbotsford is the Bible belt and yet it seems to me they are heavy on the belt and light on the Bible.”

In getting to know the family, and hearing how traumatized Tamas is, he questions how CBSA can justify sending that child back to that abuse.

“Section 25 of the Immigration Regulations states the priority in all decisions should be with the children. We don’t see that here. In fact the CBSA is bullying this child,” said Keller.

Since the family came, he has had offers from plumbers and electricians to build another bathroom with a shower to accommodate the growing need. As well as other offers in kind to show the community support around this family and Figueroa.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read