A community of artists are banding together to help a friend in need.
On Dec. 21, the Roman-Johnson family was travelling north from their Toronto home to spend the holidays with family when they were involved in a collision. While no one suffered any injuries, the family father, Jesus Roman Cruz, was arrested by OPP officers as an “undocumented immigrant” from Mexico.
“Although his paperwork was filed several months ago, along with a letter of support from MP Andrew Cash, the courts ordered Jesus to be deported on Dec. 29,” stated a press release from fundraiser organizer Paul Loewenberg.
“He has received a stay of deportation for the moment, but the family is now faced with a large legal bill and a bond they cannot pay.”
In an effort to raise funds for the family, Sudbury's own Coast Redwood, Willett, Silvertongue, Pistol George Warren, as well as solo acts will be taking the stage at the Towne House for a benefit show. Visual artists, like Paula Johnson, will also be donating work for the sale.
Paula's sister, Bonita Roman Johnson, is married to Jesus. A local painter, Paula said she's “incredibly grateful” for the support her family has received. Bonita doesn't even live in Sudbury — which makes Paula even more appreciative of the support from strangers. She said the fundraiser was “fully Paul (Loewenberg's)” idea.
“He got a hold of me out of the blue,” she said.
It was a gesture she won't soon be forgetting.
After all, the whole ordeal has caused an unfathomable amount of stress for the family.
“It's been like watching some crazy Christmas drama — but it's our family,” she said.
While Jesus, a carpenter by trade, is being held in detention in Toronto, Bonita has been visiting him regularly. She was just leaving the Rexdale Detention Centre when she took some time to speak to Northern Life.
The mother of three, including a three-year-old daughter and seven-month-old twins, said her husband “can come out anytime we get enough cash.”
The bill the family is facing is quite high, though.
“They want $18,000 in cash and guarantors to sign for another $18,000, in case he skips today or he will go back in custody for another month, when the next date is set for a review to see if they came up with the money,” said Jesus' mother-in-law, Tara Legault, who also lives in Sudbury.
If they are unable to raise the money, he will have to wait for his sponsorship forms to be processed — which could take as long as 16 months,” Bonita said.
While Jesus has been in Canada for years, he and Bonita only filed for family sponsorship in September — they wanted to be sure all their t's were crossed before they submitted the application.
“That process took years to do,” Bonita said.
“His application includes a letter of support from local MP Andrew Cash,” according to a media release issued by the family.
"Coincidentally, on the same day of Roman’s hearing, the family’s lawyer was informed by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada that they had officially begun the review of the family’s sponsorship application.
“One week before (Jesus’) arrest, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, removed Mexico from Canada’s 'safe country list,' due to increased violence and refugee claims. Jesus has continued to express that he is 'terrified to return to Mexico,' and with this news, 'is afraid for the survival of his young family.' The family is currently appealing the decision while Jesus awaits deportation in detention.”
The family won a motion for a stay of removal — now it's a matter of raising the funds for bail.
The whirlwind surrounding the family's holiday season has certainly put a damper on their spirits.
“Christmas is not my favourite holiday anymore,” Bonita said. “We've had a crazy ride.”
Anyone interested in helping out the family is welcome to attend the fundraising show Jan. 5. Tickets to the fundraiser cost $7 at the door, where donations will also be accepted. For those who can't make the show but want to help, email a Paypal donation to HelpBonitaandJesus@gmail.com.
For more information about the event, search Get Jesus Out of Jail on Facebook.