Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018 6:22PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2018 6:46PM EDT
OTTAWA — Thirteen-year-old Dio Gama will get to play baseball in the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania after all.
Gama’s team, the Whalley Major Allstars from Surrey, B.C., had thought they would be without the young outfielder after a federal judge ordered a review of the family’s immigration case last month.
There were fears Gama would be blocked from re-entering Canada if he travelled to the U.S. for the tournament without status in Canada.
But the federal Immigration Department will issue Gama a temporary resident permit in order to allow him to accompany his team to the Little League World Series, The Canadian Press has learned.
The temporary permit is the result of an intervention by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. A senior Immigration official says the $200 application fee for the permit will also be waived.
Gama was instrumental in his team making it to the Little League World Series, head coach Mike Marino said Wednesday, calling him one of the team’s strongest batters and a role model for his teammates.
“As a player, we think he’ll probably be one of the best hitters at the tournament,” he said. “He’s a great kid, he’s a kind kid. All the boys on the team look up to him.”
Gama was born in the U.S. to Mexican parents and has lived in Canada for three years. But the family’s immigration case is complicated in part by a drug-related charge and guilty plea by Dio’s father, Noe, that led to his deportation from the U.S. in 1997 and a 60-month prison term in Mexico.
Earlier this week, Whalley Little League president Gavin Burke told The Canadian Press the team didn’t expect their teammate would be able to travel to Williamsport, Penn.
“I think they’d love to see Dio back with them,” Burke said at the time.
“He’s part of the team. The kids have been together since the beginning of June … I would expect that there’s a void.”
On Tuesday, an official in Hussen’s office refused to comment on any specific immigration cases within the department, but did say that the office was aware of Gama’s situation and that it was under review.
Immigration officials worked through local Liberal MP Ken Hardie’s office to ensure Gama would have the paperwork he needed to play in the tournament.
He will be issued a temporary resident permit that will be valid until the end of the month.
Canada begins play at the Little League World Series against Panama on Friday. The event starts on Thursday.