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Venezuelan man facing deportation from Canada was convicted in U.S.
Published Tuesday, August 1, 2017 8:55PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, August 10, 2017 5:34PM CST
A Venezuelan man living in Saskatchewan and who is facing deportation was charged with domestic violence, burglary, simple assault and property damage in the U.S. years before he entered Canada, the federal government says.
Wilmer Gonzalez, who entered Canada in February 2014, was charged in 2006 and sentenced to 180 days in jail, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
A spokesperson for the government department said it could not clarify how many days — if any — Gonzalez served of the 180-day sentence or of which charges he was convicted. He claims he never spent a day locked up.
The case in the U.S. involved an ex-wife and has been closed for 11 years, Gonzalez told CTV News.
He says he is not guilty of the crimes. He says he pleaded guilty to avoid a lengthy trial that he believed would hurt his North American living arrangements. He also claims he never spent a day in jail and, instead, completed community service hours and attended courses.
Court documents show he was given the opportunity to pay a fine and complete 25 hours of community service in lieu of jail time.
The government says Gonzalez filed a refugee claim in 2014, but the claim was denied because of the charges and conviction. He also applied for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds about a year later, but the application was turned down, according to the government.
Gonzalez has been working maintenance for the Heartland Health Region at the hospital in Kindersley, Sask., and part-time with the local Salvation Army, for the past three years.
The government says he was issued a deportation order in November 2014, but remained in the country on work permits.
He, his wife and two children were recently given one month to leave Canada following the expiry of his work visa and the denial of a renewal application.
Gonzalez says he followed the appropriate steps to extend the permit, but the government says he missed a deadline in December of last year for what’s referred to as a “pre-removal risk assessment.” The application, which examines the danger of one's home country, may have allowed a “removal order” against Gonzalez to be stayed.
The government says Gonzalez is without “status” in Canada and is no longer eligible for a “no-status” work permit because the removal order against him is now enforceable.
Gonzalez said he must now return to Venezuela with his wife Vanessa, five-year-old daughter Oriana and seven-year-old son Javier, unless the federal government allows him to stay.
“It’s really bad and I’m scared for my family because it’s not a safe place for my kids and my wife,” he said of Venezuela.
More than 120 people have died and nearly 2,000 have been wounded recently as protesters in the country clash with the government.
Gonzalez’s community in Saskatchewan — Kindersley — has been pushing for the federal government to allow him to stay.
An online petition started in late July on change.org had earned more than 10,000 signatures as of Aug. 10.
--- with files from Mark Villani, Laura Woodward and The Associated Press
Editor’s note: This story was amended Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, to note the federal government did not confirm how many days – if any – Gonzalez served of the 180-day sentence or of which charges he was convicted. It was also amended to include information about court documents and to update the number of petition signatures.