India refuses to accept deportation of Ottawa-born man

Gary Dimmock, Ottawa Citizen, 4 May 2013

OTTAWA — The federal government’s fight to deport an Ottawa-born man to his parents’ homeland has been stalled because the Indian government refuses to authorize his travel documents.

Deepan Budlakoti, a 23-year-old convicted drug dealer, was released from jail two weeks ago and is now living with his parents in Ottawa’s west end.

He had been in jail since December on a deportation hold order.

Budlakoti is being deported to India under a rarely-used section of the Citizenship Act that says that if your parents are foreign diplomats or under their employ at the time of birth, you are not considered a Canadian citizen.

His parents, who condemn their son’s criminal acts, are Indian farmers who arrived in Ottawa in 1985 as household staff for India’s High Commissioner. They cleaned his toilets, walked his children to and from the school bus stop, and served dinner guests at night.

They also worked hard in his garden.

Documents show that the servants worked for the top diplomat until Dec. 21, 1989, some two months after Budlakoti was born at the old Grace Hospital. They thought that because their son was born in Canada he had automatic citizenship. They won citizenship themselves in 1997, and didn’t bother making an application for him, because, as they said on the forms back then, they figured he was already a citizen because he was born in Canada.

Budlakoti has an Ontario birth certificate and a Canadian passport, which was issued by mistake, but he also has a criminal record and the federal government wants him deported.

But the government’s deportation plan to ship him to India — where he doesn’t know anyone, let alone speak the language — has hit a snag because the Indian government doesn’t recognize him as a citizen either, according to his lawyer, reached Saturday.

“It’s turned into a Mexican standoff. The High Commission is arguing that he’s not an Indian citizen so my client is stateless at the present time,” said Ottawa immigration lawyer Peter Stieda.

Budlakoti won release after his lawyer successfully argued that the case was leading to what he called indefinite detention.

He also argued at a detention review in April that his client did not pose a risk to society.

“It was a victory to win my client’s liberty, however I have yet to win his right of Canadian citizenship. He has no status in Canada or India,” his lawyer said.

“He’s happy that he’s out of jail but only as happy as one can be anticipating that at any time he can be kicked out of the country. He’s removal ready and the only thing stopping it is the government of India,” the lawyer said.

Under the conditions set by the Immigration and Review Board, Budlakoti has to live at his parents’ home and keep a 9 p.m. curfew. He’s also forbidden from leaving the home until 9 a.m.

The first-time federal offender who served two years for a gun and drug conviction used to run a small construction company that grossed $93,000 a year.

These days, he can’t work because he has no status in Canada. In fact, he has to win a work permit before he can start making an honest living.

Budlakoti could not be reached Saturday but has told the Citizen that he fears being deported to India.

“I was born in Canada. It’s my country. I don’t know anyone in India and like I said, I don’t even speak the language,” Budlakoti said.

His lawyer gets upset when he talks about Budlakoti’s case.

“The rights of the individual (Canadian) are not just for people who look good and come in Hollywood packaging. Rights are supposed to be for all of us, including disenfranchised youth who go off the rails,” the lawyer said.

Budlakoti’s father agreed to let him live at home while he awaits and fights deportation, but he’s the first to say his son made more mistakes than most.

Still, he doesn’t think his son should be deported to a country he knows nothing about.

Budlakoti’s lawyer is still working on different angles to try to eventually win his client’s right to stay in Canada, where he was born and has always lived.