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No One Is Illegal: Well-established queer artist faces deportation

May 17th, 2011     by Julia Horel     Comments

Let Alvaro Stay Campaign |


Well-established Queer Artist faces deportation, receives tremendous community support

Art Show, Community Meeting & Press Conference 11am May 18 Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street)

Toronto - Friends of award winning photographer and queer community advocate Alvaro Orozco are joining fellow artists and supporters to ask for his release from detention and a stay on his deportation proceedings until his Humanitarian and Compassionate application has been heard. Alvaro Orozco was at a detention review today, May 17, International Day Against Homophobia, hoping for his release from Rexdale Immigration Holding Centre where he has been detained since Friday evening (May 13) after being ‘randomly’ ID’d and arrested by Toronto Police outside Ossington station. He was denied release but no deportation date has been set yet. The press conference on May 18 will include many of his photographic works, testimonials from friends and supporters, Olivia Chow (Member of Parliament), Helen Kennedy (Egale Canada), Ruth Howard (Jumblies Theatre) and Alejandro Martinez (close friend).

“Alvaro has been in Canada since 2004, and is an integral member of Toronto’s queer community,” says Suhail Abualsameed, Coordinator, Newcomer/Immigrant Youth Program at Sherbourne Health Centre, where Alvaro works with queer newcomer youth. Alvaro received a Street-Level Advocate Award from Toronto Youth Cabinet for his work in 2010. Suhail, who attended a 30 person meeting on Sunday afternoon after news of Alvaro’s arrest spread like wildfire in Toronto’s queer and arts community continues, “we were all hoping that on this International Day Against Homophobia, he would be released back to his community and are distraught that he is still in jail.”

Many people attending a Proud of Toronto meeting at City Hall on Monday, May 16, were shocked to hear of Alvaro’s arrest. Dozens of people gathered around displays of his art work recording emotional video testimonials calling for his release and for immigration status. These videos are now available at A facebook page set up on Saturday night has over 1000 members, and a petition set up on Monday morning has over 900 signatures (

Florencia Berinstein, Festival Director of the Mayworks Festival where Alvaro currently has a show stressed his artistic work and involvement. “Alvaro is a unique artist who weaves his struggles into a beautiful photographic story that captures the viewer. It is critical that this powerful artistic voice continue to flourish here in Toronto”. Since 2007 Alvaro’s works have appeared in Mayworks Festival, Migrant Expressions Photography Exhibition (Montreal), Under the Bridge Art Exhibition, Jumblies Theatre, Refugee Rights Day Art Exhibition at Toronto City Hall and ArtWherk Collective Pride Art Exhibition.

“Alvaro was denied refugee status in 2007 after the IRB board judge Deborah Lamont declared that he ‘did not look gay enough’ to her,” explains Craig Fortier, long time friend and supporter. “Since then he has filed a Humanitarian and Compassionate Application on which he is awaiting a decision.”

“I’m an artist, a youth worker, and a volunteer in Toronto,” Alvaro Orozco said from the detention centre earlier today. “I’ve got a strong Humanitarian and Compassionate Application case and am hoping that I can get back to the life I’ve built in the city for the past 7 years.”

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