By TOM GODFREY
Vocal Canadian Football League (CFL) fans may have saved top quarterback Henry Burris from returning to the U.S. after he was refused permanent resident status because he is deemed a temporary foreign worker.
Burris, who is one of the CFL’s popular quarterbacks, is having his case reviewed by federal immigration officials who changed their position last Sunday following pressure from the public.
Football fans rallied online on social media to show their support for Burris, who has been playing in the CFL for 10 years.
Burris, 39, has been with the Ottawa Redblacks for the last two years. He moved from his hometown of Spiro, Oklahoma to play with the Calgary Stampeders in 2005. He also played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The father of two is active in the community and well-liked by fans. He and his wife, Nicole, have two children who were born here.
Under new immigration laws, the award-winning quarterback was deemed by federal officials as a Redblacks part-time worker, which makes it difficult for him to become a landed immigrant and obtain citizenship.
He argued that he plays for the Redblacks from June to November and during the off-season he trains and takes part in community events, including an organization he founded called the Burris Foundation, which raises money for children’s charities.
Burris also manages a pizza franchise that he started in Calgary.
An immigration official said his department will work with Burris so he and his family can remain in Canada.
Burris through Tweets thanked the Redblacks, immigration officials, friends, family and fans for helping him.
“I’d like to thank the Ottawa Redblacks and Immigration Canada for stepping up to help us with our situation,” he wrote. “Thanks to all the amazing support we’ve received, I’d like to say thank you to our Canadian friends and family!”
So far he has spent about $7,000 in a bid to obtain immigration status in Canada.
He is one of thousands of foreign workers, including a majority of caregivers, who have to leave the country after April 1 when their visa expires.
“I’m coming into this as a parent and as a family guy and as a guy that’s been part of this country and has done everything that he can to help better this country,” said Burris.
He was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2010 and has played on two Grey Cup winning teams.
He has thrown for 55,254 yards over his career, trailing only Hall of Famer Damon Allen and Montreal Alouettes’ great, Anthony Calvillo. His 335 career touchdowns also place him third in league history.
Many social media sites were busy as CFL fans rallied to help the family.
“Very disappointed to hear about this citizenship stuff,” wrote Matt Carey. “Keep your head up and do what you do. I hope you get it soon.”
“Are we a better country and city with the Burris family?” asked Shawn Simpson. “Hell yes.”
Fan Chris Harrison credits Burris for his work off the field.
“Anyone in Ottawa who’s seen how active Burris was this offseason will tell you that this is a full-time job,” Harrison wrote.
Jim Sutherland said he is not pleased by the news.
“It is hard to believe that you have any roadblock to Canadian citizenship after all your community work,” Sutherland said. “I am not happy to hear this news.”
“Canada scours the world for talented immigrants. Burris wants citizenship but hits roadblocks,” said Rick Gibbons, who used the hashtag “nuts” to describe the situation.
Guy Annable urged fans to Tweet Immigration Minister Chris Alexander “about the plight of Burris”.
In the end, Alexander did step in to help.