Update: Nancy's nightmare


Issue: "Weapons of mass hysteria," March 15, 2003

An Iranian-born immigrant called "Nancy," profiled in WORLD's Nov. 23, 2002, story, "Border patrol," will soon know whether she must leave or may live in Canada. Nancy escaped persecution as a newly converted Christian in Iran two years ago, but has not found the freedom she hoped for in the West. Last year an immigration judge ruled against her claim for permanent residency.

Canadian Refugee Board Judge Helene Panagakos overreached in the ruling, ruling not only on her eligibility but on her conversion as well. She said she "does not believe that [Nancy] was baptized and therefore does not believe that she converted to Christianity."

Nancy's pastor, Harold Ristau, and other members of Montreal's Ascension Lutheran Church, where Nancy is a regular member and English-language tutor to newer immigrants, provided evidence to the contrary for a review panel. When Immigration and Refugee Board Vice President Gaetan Cousineau met with Mr. Ristau last month, he had good news and bad news. The panel is in the process of "educating" immigration judges, who, according to Mr. Cousineau, "need more training in the field of religion," he told Mr. Ristau-an obvious reference to a flawed decision.

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The bad news: The decision in Nancy's case is not likely to be reversed. At least that was the government's position, until Nancy received a letter last week summoning her to meet with review panel officials later this month. The letter suggests they may decide to overturn the judge's ruling, or to sustain it and deport her with or without detention. Under a new immigrant policy between the United States and Canada, Nancy is unlikely to receive a hearing in the United States once her case is rejected in Canada.


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