MONTREAL - There were hugs and tears of joy when a woman was reunited with her two young children in Montreal on Friday after being deported to her native Mexico.
Paola Ortiz had not seen her three year-old boy and five-year-old daughter for almost seven months.
She was greeted at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport with a never-ending stream of hugs from family, friends and supporters.
"All the time I was living there I was afraid — it was terrible," Ortiz told reporters as tears of happiness rolled down her face.
"I lost hope for a few days, but I'm finally here with my children."
Ortiz, who is in her early 30s, said the first thing she wanted to do was to go to church and "give thanks to God" before taking her Canadian-born children to a park.
She added that she was taken care of in Mexico by friends and other people.
Her return to Canada came after the federal government agreed to grant her the status of permanent resident.
That request was initially refused under the pretext Mexico had assured Canada that Ortiz, a victim of conjugal violence, would be provided adequate protection.
One of her supporters said she returned to Canada with the help of the Quebec immigration minister.
Her return marks the end of a nightmare she first tried to flee six years ago.
Ortiz had been a victim of conjugal violence by her former husband. One report said he was a federal Mexican police officer.
Anais Gonzales, one of her friends from Mexico, helped take care of the children in Montreal.
She said she explained Ortiz's absence by telling her daughter that her mother was captured by a dragon.
"She started drawing pictures of a dragon and we told her we were fighting against the dragon to let her mother go," Gonzales said.
Gonzales also told reporters it is difficult for a woman to be safe in Mexico because of the widespread violence and drugs wars in the country.
"Mexico is not a country that protects women and it's not true when they say it's safe because I'm also Mexican and I know that's not true," she said.
Activist Jaggi Singh says Ortiz received support from several groups that promote justice for migrant workers.
"At any given time, there are upwards of 40,000 people that live without status, without papers in Montreal and many of them parents," he said.
Singh said Ortiz was a classic case of why people cross borders to seek justice.
"She couldn't get protection in Mexico from the violence that she was facing, so she sought refuge here."