They came to Canada to seek a better life for their children, but now they're being told to leave because their youngest son's illness costs too much.
1 OF 2 VIKTOR PIVOVAROV/TIMES & TRANSCR Businessman Tae-Shik Maeng, left, his wife Hee-Eun Jang, right, and their children Sung-Joo Maeng, 15, and Jung-Joo Maeng, 19, have been advised by the federal Immigration Department to leave the country by the end of June.
The Maeng family from South Korea moved to Moncton in 2003 and within a few years set up a business, The Main Stop Oriental Market on West Main Street.
They care for their youngest boy, Sung-Joo, 15, who has been diagnosed with autism and epilepsy, while their older son, Jung-Joo, 19, has worked his way through school, graduating with honours from Harrison Trimble High School last year before moving on to Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Jung-Joo, who goes by John, said he's wanted to be a dentist his entire life, and he's pursuing a bachelor of science degree in Halifax. His summer break took a bad turn recently when his parents, father Tae-Shik Maeng and mother Hee-Eun Jang, received a letter informing them that their family would have to leave Canada by June 30.
The family's application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to extend their temporary resident permit (worker and student) was denied due to the medical and education expenses of Sung-Joo.
John says his brother was perfectly healthy as a young child and his symptoms didn't present themselves until a car accident when he was only five.
The family moved to Canada in the hope that a change in environment might help Sung-Joo.
John says his brother uses non-verbal communication, attends school in the mornings and has a team of support workers who help him. Under his Saint John-based doctor's care, his seizures aren't as frequent as they once were.
But according to a letter from CIC, dated May 31, the family must leave Canada voluntarily by June 30, otherwise, "enforcement action may be taken against you."
The letter states that, "A foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services."
Because Sung-Joo has been deemed inadmissible and he is under his family's care, the entire family must leave the country.
And because John's English skills are stronger than his parents', he now finds himself dealing with CIC, lawyers, doctors and others as he helps his family try to find a way to stay in their adopted home of Moncton.
"The whole family has been sad and crying," John said yesterday.
He said he would understand CIC's position if his parents weren't working and contributing to society, but that isn't the case.
"We have a business, my parents both have an income," he said.
John feels that Moncton is a great place to live and has grown considerably in his family's time here. He said Canadians seem to understand the special needs of some, like his brother, better than people in his home of Seoul, South Korea.
Through John, his father Tae-Shik said his family is concerned about having to move, especially with respect to how it will affect John's education.
They'll move back to South Korea at the end of the month, but the family hopes John can come back with a student permit in the fall to continue school.
The family has already purchased plane tickets to get them from Moncton to Montreal, Vancouver and finally South Korea, and they're fully intending on leaving before June 30.
John's uncle and aunt, who also live in Moncton, are prepared to take over operating the Main Stop business.
But in the meantime, John and his parents are trying to find a way to convince CIC to reverse its decision.
A CIC spokesperson said yesterday the agency can not discuss the Maengs' case, citing privacy laws.
Nicole Druckman, a Moncton lawyer, is advising the family.
Druckman deals with immigration issues, but doesn't specialize in the litigation of such matters and has referred the family to another lawyer who does.
"We're in the midst of trying to find some form of magic to allow them to stay," Druckman said. "But as you may know, immigration is quite complicated and things don't always work out the way one would hope, especially with our province saying we want lots of immigrants."
Druckman said the Maengs contribute to Metro Moncton's economy and society. The family's store services many of her Filipino clients by offering products not available in grocery stores in the area.
Erin Leis, a family support worker with Access Home Care, started working with Sung-Joo more than two years ago, and has seen improvement with his condition.
"When I first met Sung-Joo, his behaviour was erratic and spontaneous," she said. And while Sung-Joo still tends to hoard toys and other items and he gets anxious at times, Erin said, "Now, I can take him to restaurants. We go for drives, we go to the park."
She believes the stress of a sudden move and new people and surroundings could hurt Sung-Joo's progress.
The family is also seeking out help from Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe MP Robert Goguen and hoping for community support.
Druckman said the family's best option is likely to see if they can get CIC to stop their deportation order while a permanent resident permit is evaluated.
While the family's temporary permit extension has been rejected, a permanent resident permit is still making its way through the system. However, Druckman said it could be years before a decision is made on the file.
"I always tell people it's 50/50," she said, when asked what the Maengs' chances are. "You never know. There's a lot of discretion involved with immigration as well, which doesn't make matters better."