GUYSBOROUGH – It has been a very long time coming but after eight years of paper work, legal wrangling, living under threat of deportation, and a distraught trip across the Canadian-U.S. border in November of 2012, Nancy Inferrera –a 79-year-old U.S. citizen--is finally free to live out the rest of her days in Guysborough with her long-time friend Mildred Sanford (aged 89).
The seeds of this protracted immigration drama were sown over three decades ago when Inferrera and Sanford met in Massachusetts and became friends. Sanford, a Canadian citizen born in Guysborough County, lived in the U.S. with her husband. Upon his death, she decided to return to Canada to live closer to her remaining family and Inferrera decided to move with her.
Together, their combined pensions, one American and the other Canadian, allowed them to live a simple life, purchasing a second-hand mini-home, and settling on a lot in the Trailer Park just outside the village of Guysborough. That was 11 and a half years ago.
The pair encountered no problems until Inferrera sought to make her residency permanent in 2011. When the government learned that she was in the country on an expired visitor’s visa a deportation order was issued though not immediately enforced.
After pursuing several avenues to avoid deportation, Inferrera decided, at age 73, to leave Canada of her own accord in the fall of 2012 rather than be escorted out by the government. Sanford insisted on accompanying her friend, giving up the security of her home in Guysborough and her Canadian health care which she needed at the age of 83.
Intervention by local, provincial, and federal members of government along with much support from Canadian citizens, media and immigration lawyer Lee Cohen saw the pair restored to their home in Guysborough several days after they crossed the border to Maine that fretful November day in 2012.
Since that time, Inferrera, with the continued support of many friends in the Guysborough area and lawyer Lee Cohen, has been working to secure permanent residency in Canada. She got an early Valentine's present on the morning of February 12 when she finally received that sought-after recognition in an office in Halifax with Sanford by her side.
“I wanted to jump up and down for joy,” said Inferrera in an interview at her home last weekend. “I'm officially, after 11 and a half years, a permanent resident of Canada. I couldn't be happier. I worked long and hard for that; many a crying nights. Mr. Cohen worked real hard for me.”
On Tuesday, February 12, friends Archie and Beulah Avery drove Inferrera and Sanford to Halifax for the 9 a.m. appointment where this long immigration saga finally came to a satisfying conclusion. Upon return to Guysborough, with permanent residency papers in hand, Inferrera said, “I have a home now. I put the key in the door and I'm home; I can relax...Not knowing—that no matter where I was they could, just any day, take me out of here never to return. I went to bed some nights and would look out my window and say, 'Is this going to be my last night here?'; it took a toll.”
Inferrera said many people helped her make it through these difficult years. “Life is good,” she said with a smile while sitting at the kitchen table. Their home is a hive of activity with friends and neighbours coming and going dropping things off or helping out by taking them shopping or on other errands and outings.
With her new immigration status secured Inferrera said she felt like she'd been given a new life and she thanked everyone in Canada for their support. She's even got a new Canadian flag which she plans to hoist proudly this coming Canada Day.
In two year’s time Inferrera will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship. She plans to make that application and will swear the oath of citizenship with a happy heart when that day comes. But for the moment, she's settling in, finally, to a life a little more ordinary. And it's good to be home.