Jackie Tran has been deported from Canada. The perceived delay in his removal has underscored public unhappiness with the current state of immigration enforcement. Notwithstanding the general relief felt by (apparently) most Calgarians, Tran's deportation does not actually make them any safer, or any less susceptible to the increasing levels of gang violence in Calgary (the fact of the matter is that most criminals are Canadian and therefore cannot be deported). Moreover, Tran's removal had less to do with his criminal record and more to do with his unpopularity and the fact that he had somehow became the public face for organized crime in Calgary.
The fact that he came here as a child with his mother in 1993 seemed to garner little sympathy. A permanent resident, Tran's oversight was to fail to make application for citizenship -- which would have prevented any possibility of his deportation. Tran was finally deported this week from Canada based on his criminality -- a relatively limited, and dated criminal record that included drug trafficking and assault.
Tran was convicted by the criminal courts of this province - courts that see infractions of the laws, major and minor, on a day in and day out basis. Those courts, expert in determining culpability, assigned blame to Tran's offences. Tran was sentenced to serve his sentence in the community for his drug offences and paid a fine with respect to his assault conviction. A court can only impose a conditional sentence after assessing potential risk of releasing an individual back into the community. It is a reality that the vast majority of criminals are released back into the community. Rehabilitation and reintegration of criminals into society occurs every day.
Mr. Tran was not so lucky in convincing the immigration appeal division, which somehow felt that he posed a danger to the community, and should be therefore removed from Canada. This was clearly at odds with the decision made by the criminal court. Mr. Tran was apparently not deserving of the opportunity to rehabilitate and reintegrate -- the way that criminals born in Canada are.
After the Federal Court decided in January not to review the appeal decision, Tran (in keeping in line with his efforts to stay legally in Canada) voluntarily showed up for removal at the Calgary International Airport.
The heightened fear of the public, stoked by the sensationalist media, resulted in Tran facing a frenzied outcry for his removal. As a former hearings officer and more recently an immigration lawyer, I have appeared in hundreds of immigration hearings and appeals. I know, from personal experience, that there are many permanent residents, inadmissible on criminal convictions far more serious than Tran's, that are allowed to stay in this country. It was clear however, that the deck was stacked against Tran because of this 'persona'.
Even though there is no substantive difference between Jackie Tran (who was brought to Canada as a child and raised here) and a citizen, the criminality of the former resulted in deportation, while the criminality of the latter will never result in deportation. It's clear that Calgarians are comfortable removing an individual born abroad and comfortable with living with criminals born here.