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Live-in caregiver pleads for immigration exemption

A live-in caregiver facing deportation made an emotional plea yesterday for an exemption to an immigration rule prohibiting her sick 12-year-old daughter from entering the country.

Hessana Santiago, 44, felt confident she would be granted permanent residency after completing a four-year work term. Once Santiago filed her papers, her husband and four children underwent medical tests in their native Philippines to allow them to join her in Canada.

The tests, taken last September, revealed Santiago's daughter Angelika suffers from chronic renal disease. The child now receives dialysis six times a day.

The federal government held up Santiago's application. Immigration officials deemed the cost of treating Angelika's illness too great for the medical system and notified Santiago her application for residency could be refused.

"Now I'm asking to please give me compassion and allow my family to come here because it is our dream to be here in Canada," Santiago said through a veil of tears.

"I tried my best to work here. I worked hard just to support my family."

NDP MP for Vancouver-Kingsway Don Davies joined Santiago's call.

The deputy immigration critic demanded the federal government change immigration rules that force live-in caregivers to undergo medical tests when initially applying to enter Canada and again for the applicant's entire family when seeking permanent residency.

"Live-in caregivers should not have to face the double burden that no other immigrant has to face," he said. "It's cruel and unfair after she has worked and undergone so much sacrifice to deny her at this point."

Santiago has 60 days to ask for an exemption from immigration officials.

Dharm Makwana reports for Vancouver 24 Hours.

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