Temporary reprieve for Gemma

Community News & Features Mar 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm
By Pet G. Cleto

By Pet G. Cleto

A sudden ray of brightness and hope shone on Gemma Geronimo this March the 6th, just 2 days before International Women’s Day. Gemma, who had been living in fear since 2005 in Canada as a victim of human trafficking and as an undocumented worker, has been granted a temporary reprieve by the Canada Border Services Agency. On March 6, the CBSA chose not to make a decision about her deportation. It chose to wait for the results of the ongoing investigations being made on her appeal regarding her risk-assessment (risks she and family will face if deported to the Philippines) and her application for permanent residency on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

Geronimo Family: Mae, Eli, Gemma, Rico

Geronimo Family: Mae, Eli, Gemma, Rico

Gemma was asked by the CBSA to meet with an officer on March the 6th, and she, her family and her supporters were anxious because it was highly possible that she would be given a date of deportation, with a grace period of just two weeks to pack their belongings and be deported back to the Philippines.

Despite that anxiety, Gemma and her advocates from Migrante Ontario, GABRIELA Ontario, and Anakbayan  nevertheless had put together petitions signed by supporters urging the Canadian government to grant Gemma a permanent residency (PR). MacDonald Scott, an immigration consultant with the Carranza law firm, was also there on March 6, continuing to provide his advice and support to Gemma and the advocacy groups working with her on her campaign.

IMG_3496The advocate groups view granting the PR to Gemma and her family as a just and merciful act towards Gemma.  It is seen by them as not only an act to right the wrong a Manila-based recruitment agency has willfully done to Gemma, but also would be a just act in the best interests of her Canadian-born children. Gemma and her common-law husband Rico Conception have two children- Mae, their lovely and bright 10 year-old daughter, and Eli, their charming, smart but shy 6-year old, both born here in Canada.

From left: Mithi Esguerra (GABRIELA), Myla from OLA parish, Sarah Salise (Anakbayan), Pastor Eli Diolanda, Pet G. Cleto, Rico Concepcion (behind), Gemma Geronimo, Scott MacDonald, Bayani Edades (migrante Ontario), Gabi Abis (Anakbayan), Rhea Ghamana (Anakbayan). 

From left: Mithi Esguerra (GABRIELA), Myla from OLA parish, Sarah Salise (Anakbayan), Pastor Eli Diolanda, Pet G. Cleto, Rico Concepcion (behind), Gemma Geronimo, Scott MacDonald, Bayani Edades (migrante Ontario), Gabi Abis (Anakbayan), Rhea Ghamana (Anakbayan). 

When Gemma was arrested by the CBSA in her workplace, on January 13, 2016, she was asked to sign her deportation papers that very day, but Gemma chose to fight to stay with her children. She and her husband had not been previously able to find the appropriate legal help because they could not afford the legal fees. After Gemma was released through a bond provided by her spiritual adviser, Pastor Eli Diolanda, she was directed to Migrante Ontario, which is the local chapter of the Canada-wide Migrante Canada, which successfully campaigned for Juana Tejada’s appeal for Permanent Residency.  Tejada was under threat of deportation from the date she was diagnosed with cancer in 2006.

Gemma’s campaign is now accelerating, not only through the guidance of Migrante Ontario, and affiliated organizations GABRIELA Ontario and Anakbayan, but also of the growing support of church people and academic groups, and volunteers fSince Gemma’s fight is not over, her campaign will continue, and there are already several occasions that Gemma is set to speak.  That includes an International Women’s Day mini-program at the IWD rally and March in Toronto, and the commemoration of Flor Contemplacion’s death anniversary on March 17.