A Costa Rican family reportedly has to leave Canada because immigration officials said their teenage son's Down Syndrome would be a drain on taxpayers.
Felipe Montoya and Alejandra Garcia-Prieto moved to Toronto with their two teenaged children three years ago so that Montoya, a college professor, could teach environmental studies at York University, CBC News reported.
Although they have been seeking permanent residency since they first moved to Canada, immigration officials reportedly denied their application because their 13-year-old son, Nico, has Down Syndrome.
According to Canada's Immigration and Citizenship Act, "a foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services."
When Montoya first landed the job at York University three years ago, an international hiring officer reportedly warned him that his family may encounter obstacles to gaining permanent residency because of their son's condition. However, Montoya thought that he must have misheard the officer.
The couple and their children are planning to move back to Costa Rica in June but are still speaking out about the allegedly discriminatory legislation.
"Our fight is more of a matter of principle," Montoya told CBC Radio on March 14. "You have people who are deemed inadmissible because they may cost the state."
"He was singled out solely because of his genetic identity," he added. "The only difference is he has a genetic condition that makes him different."
His wife agreed that their son was treated unfairly by immigration.
"Down syndrome people are victims of a stigma," Garcia-Prieto said. "It's just papers, they don't know the person."
The family said the law contradicts the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
This is not the first time a family encountered immigration problems in Canada because of a child's genetic condition.
In 2011, a Korean family in Moncton, Canada, faced deportation because their 15-year-old son had autism and epilepsy, according to another CBC News article.
After the local Moncton community rallied behind the family and pledged to provide support for their son's needs, the Canadian government reversed the decision and granted the family temporary visas allowing them to stay in the country another three years while their permanent residency application was processed.
The family, who owned a convenience store in Moncton, had first moved to Canada in 2003. It remains unclear whether they eventually received permanent residency.