José Castillo had been sleeping in the basement of a church in New York for nearly three weeks.
His fear was that his family would be deported under president Trump, so he decided to take a radical step: after 20 years in the United States, he’d take his family and leave the country.
Under the refuge of the church, José waited for an answer from the Canadian government regarding his petition for asylum. And then, finally, came an answer.
His wife, María Blanco, and their two American children packed their bags and traveled from Maryland to meet José in upstate New York.
On Wednesday, on the eve of their appointment in Canada, the family barely slept. It was the longest night of their lives. “I must do it too, not just for my kids but for myself as well,” María told Univision’s Pedro Ultreras.
José was in tears: “It’s 16 years —since 2001— that we’re leaving behind.”
Canada has opened its doors to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers arriving from the United States, especially after President Trump announced his strong immigration policies through executive orders. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in January: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you.”
As they got ready for their appointment, María told Ultreras: “We’re hoping for the best, that they give us a chance”. The fear of being denied entry to Canada —or being deported to El Salvador— crept closer as the hours passed. José checked his documents over and over. He told the kids to make sure their bags were in order.
Their appointment was on Thursday at a Canadian immigration checkpoint in Fort Erie.
“If they decide to let us through, that’s when my fear will end”, José told Ultreras before going in.
After nightfall, José came out of the checkpoint. He was crying. He couldn’t believe it.
He told Ultreras the last words he’d heard from the immigration official: “Welcome to Canada.”