immigration:
leaving your own country and going to live in another country.

consultant:
someone who is paid for helping people leave their own country and go to live in another country.

refugee
a person who leaves the place they have been living because of war, hunger, etc.

Estrella Mendez (easy version)

In April, 2001 Estrella Mendez got into trouble with the Canadian police. They said she had broken Canadian immigration law.

The police said that Estrella, who is an immigration consultant, had been telling people who wanted to live in Canada that they should lie and say they were refugees. Telling lies like this to the government is against the law; and telling other people that they must tell such lies, as Estrella did, is also against the law.

The police heard about Estrella from a woman called Susana Framarini. Susana and her family had recently arrived in Canada from Argentina. They said Estrella had tricked them into coming to Canada. They said she had told them it would be easy for them to get “refugee status.” And she didn’t say they would have to do anything dishonest to get it. Because of Estrella’s promises, Susan, her husband and their three-year-old daughter decided to come to Canada to start a new life. They flew to the United States on visitor’s visas. Then they drove to Buffalo near the Canadian border. There, Estrella helped them get across the border into Canada. They paid her $2000 for this help.

When the Framarini family got into Canada, however, they soon learned they could not easily become refugees. They learned that, for the Canadian government, “refugees” are people who who have had bad problems in their own country because of war or hunger, or because of their beliefs or because of the group they belong to. However, nothing like this had happened to the Framarinis. People like them who come to Canada just because they want a better life do not “count” as refugees.

Estrella told the Framarinis that they would have to lie to the Canadian government. They would have to tell them that they had had problems in Argentina because of their beliefs or because of the group they belonged to. She told them that, if they did not do what she told them to do, they would get into trouble and might be sent back to Argentina. She also told them that she would not help them anymore if they didn’t give her more money.

That was when Susana and her husband decided to go to the police.

- information from: “The National Post,” (Toronto) 01.04 (Finbarr O’Reilly)