Jose Francisco Cardoza Quinteros: an unrepentant, violent former gang leader responsible for attacks and killings in his home country,

Jose Francisco Cardoza Quinteros: an unrepentant, violent former gang leader responsible for attacks and killings in his home country, or a devout Christian trying to turn his life around in British Columbia.
Lawyers for the federal government and Cardoza Quinteros offered competing images in court Friday of a man who claims he fled to Canada to escape his former gang, which he says is out to kill him.A Federal Court judge ultimately agreed Cardoza Quinteros poses a danger to the public and on Friday stayed an earlier immigration board decision to release him.Justice Yvon Pinard ordered him to remain in custody until a judicial review of the original decision, or until his next chance to argue to remain in Canada - known as a pre-removal risk assessment - is finished.Cardoza Quinteros has already been ordered deported because of his gang ties, but he's fighting to stay.The opposing portraits of Cardoza Quinteros offered Friday are mostly due to his own accounts of his life in El Salvador, accounts that varied wildly during a lengthy interview with border officers in Surrey, B.C., when he tried to enter Canada last September.He initially denied he was a member of a gang, but eventually admitted once belonging to the Mara Salvatrucha, a violent organization with thousands of members throughout Central America.Cardoza Quinteros said he was the gang's treasurer, then offered an evolving picture of his involvement in the gang. He first said he only took part in beatings, then gradually changed his story to include four killings and fierce grenade attacks on rival groups.Caroline Christiaens, a lawyer for the federal Immigration Department, offered a suggestion about which version to believe.She said Cardoza Quinteros, a member of Mara Salvatrucha from 1999 until 2004, became adept at using violence to control gang members and eventually left only because he feared for his life, not because he had any desire to change his ways."He wanted to join that gang, he joined voluntarily, and he knew the nature of the gang at the time," said Christiaens.
"He's been involved in crime and violence since the '90s. . . . He's never said that he's remorseful, he's never said what he did was wrong."Cardoza Quinteros later recanted much of what he told border officials, and an immigration board member ruled earlier this week that she doubted he had ever killed anyone.Instead, in ordering him released, board member Daphne Shaw Dyck said Cardoza Quinteros may have exaggerated his past in the erroneous belief that it would help his case.But Christiaens said the discrepancies instead suggest Cardoza Quinteros was lying to minimize and hide his past.Christiaens said Cardoza Quinteros is dangerous and argued Shaw Dyck was wrong in concluding the Salvadoran man did not pose a significant risk to the public.She said his history of violence isn't limited to his gang involvement, and said that risk increases as his deportation draws closer.
"It certainly increases the potential for conflict," she said. "He's under a lot of pressure. He's used to being in a position to control his surroundings through violence."But Cardoza Quinteros's lawyer, Shepherd Moss, noted that his client was released soon after arriving in Canada last September and had lived peacefully in Surrey until he was ordered into custody on April 21 to face another detention hearing.He was living with a supportive family and following all of the conditions imposed on him, had overcome the alcoholism that fuelled his violence in El Salvador, and had found support among church members in Surrey, Moss said.
Moss said his client has demonstrated he can live free in the community while his case works its way through the system, proving his release last September was the correct decision.
"Allowing Mr. Cardoza Quinteros to continue on this path of rehabilitation and better himself is in the public interest," said Moss, who rejected the claim that his client would become violent if faced with confrontation.
"His dedication to the Christian faith will allow him to turn the other cheek. There's no evidence of such lashing out. There's no evidence of random violence, there's no evidence of fights when he's alone on the street and sober."
The judge hearing the case said Cardoza Quinteros's past indeed make him more likely to become violent.
"I do not find that the danger to the public, if a stay is not granted, is purely speculative," Pinard wrote in his decision. "The danger is real and, for the purpose of this motion, it constitutes irreparable harm."
Even though his refugee claim has failed and he has been ordered deported, Cardoza Quinteros is still pursuing other options to remain in Canada.
He has applied for a pre-removal risk assessment to argue he would be put in danger if returned to El Salvador - a process already underway that could be finished soon.
If that fails, Moss told court Friday that he would then apply for a judicial review of the case.

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