‘Tunnel runner’ still in legal limbo, but has a job offer

The Canadian portal of the St. Clair River Tunnel. George Mathewson

Cathy Dobson

A Cuban national who risked his life by entering Canada illegally through the St. Clair Tunnel has been offered a job and hopes to get a work permit soon.

“I want to be a Canadian resident and get on with my life,” said Miguel Padron, 57.

Miguel Padron

Padron was living in Detroit when he decided to leave his rented home, a job and all his possessions to slip across the border from Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia on July 4.

He said he made the dangerous one-hour trek through the train tunnel beneath the St. Clair River because he felt a backlash of hate toward immigrants in the U.S.

When he emerged from the Canadian portal he hid in some bushes and eventually surrendered to police.

Canadian Border Services (CBSA) screened him and took him for a check up at the hospital, then left him at a Sarnia motel.

“Miguel did not make a refugee claim,” said Bart DeVries, a consultant who is voluntarily assisting Padron through the complicated immigration process.

People in Canada who want to claim refugee status cannot apply for work permits while they wait for a hearing. But Padron can apply because he is subject to an unenforceable removal order, according to DeVries.

Padron lived in Canada previously and was handed a deportation order in 1991, which is still outstanding.

“This time, he may have crossed the border in a sketchy way but the CBSA let him in. They know he’s here,” said DeVries. “He was not sent back over the border immediately and I believe Ottawa is hesitant to send him back to Cuba.

“That’s why he’s in the queue for a pre-removal risk assessment.”

That could take months or even years, DeVries said. In the meantime, the government will likely allow Padron to work.

In September, after his story was first reported in The Journal, an Ottawa company called Tumbler’s Gymnastics Centre contacted him and offered free transportation from Sarnia to Ottawa for a job interview.

Padron, who has extensive experience as a gym coach, went to Ottawa for a day and was offered full-time employment, pending a work permit.

A lawyer hired by Tumbler’s applied for the permit and he is waiting for the result. He’s been told it could take up to three months.

He has also applied for free health care.

Meanwhile, his money ran out a week or two after arriving in Canada and he is living in an apartment provided by the River City Vineyard Church.

It’s possible Padron will ultimately be deported, DeVries said.

“There is a list of countries, like Afghanistan, considered unsafe to return to. Cuba is not one of them,” he said. “But there may be extenuating circumstances.”

DeVries said he believes Padron is afraid to return to Cuba because the government of his birthplace is communist.

“He’s a very genuine person,” DeVries said.  “He’s made some bad choices, has some DUIs, but he’s a hard worker and a very positive person.

“He just wants a secure life without risk of being deported.”