A popular local resident is being forced to leave the country after a recent application for residency was turned down.
Randy Hedrick, known more as “Texas Randy”, came to Canada 39 years ago and never went back.
Although some speculate that he is a draft-dodger, Hedrick said he just came up to the Great White North to visit friends and never went back.
He came to Grand Forks in 1978 and hasn’t left since. He will, unfortunately, have to leave by Sept. 28 or risk possible arrest and deportation.
“I was hitchhiking through town,” said Hedrick. “I was coming to see friends I’d met in Port Alberni.”
He liked it so much he decided not to leave. Hedrick had been working in Port Alberni at the sawmill. When he came to Grand Forks he worked as a forest firefighter and as a drywaller.
“I have lots of friends here,” he said. “It’s sad to be going. I came here for two weeks and just forgot to go back.”
Hedrick said he really likes the scenery in Canada.
“I like the mountains,” he said. “I like the rivers; And the people. I just like Canada.”
Hedrick said he never applied to immigrate before. He figures he hasn’t been hurting anyone.
“I’ve never been arrested,” he laughs. “Although I have spent time in the drunk tank but they didn’t charge me with anything. I’m not a criminal. I’m not a draft-dodger. I’m just a regular guy from Texas. While, maybe not regular.”
It’s clear speaking with Hedrick that he doesn’t take life too seriously; however, he does seem legitimately scared for what the future holds.
A couple of years back, he turned himself in to immigration with the hopes that he would get to stay. He wanted to go visit his mother and brother, who still live in Texas. He wanted to be able to visit them and return.
“I mistakenly thought they wouldn’t throw me out,” said Hedrick. “It seemed like they didn’t care if I was here or not. It took three years before they decided to throw me out of the country. I asked them what they were going to do and they said I had to go to home.”
Hedrick says he was told he wasn’t being deported, which would mean he wouldn’t be able to ever return to Canada.
“They said if you leave by such and such a time (Sept. 28) and all is good,” he said, “in a year you can apply to return. You’re not being barred from Canada. I’m not being deported, I’m just being asked to leave. So I’m going to leave and all will be good.”
Hedrick has been told that the IRS will be contacting him but he says he has receipts and tax returns for the last 20 years he has worked in Canada.
“I’ll show it to them and they can do what they want to,” he said.
Hendrick said he has had his family visit him here in Canada. Even still, he is looking forward to going back to him mom’s house and visiting family in Texas.
“I’m looking forward to going down there,” he said. “I was just looking forward to being able to go back and forth between the two countries. I don’t want to cause any problems in either country. I just want to be able to go through the borders like most people can.”
Hedrick has received a letter of support from Mayor Brian Taylor, whom he considers a friend.
“He said I was a valuable member of society and a good friend of his,” said Hedrick. “I always worked and paid my own way. But that’s it—I’m basically an illegal alien. As far as I understand they don’t want people up here taking jobs from Canadians. But I’m not doing that, I’m taking jobs that need to be done in this town. I’m a drywaller and if people need it done, it needs to be done. They can’t get people to do it from out of town. They call me to other towns that don’t have drywallers. They need to find someone to do it and I do it.”
Fifty or so close friends of Hedricks held a going away party of sorts on Sunday at his place. He said he really appreciates the support from the people in Grand Forks.
Taylor told the Gazette he wrote a letter of support because he believes that Hedrick is a good citizen and has many, many friends here.
“He made a contribution to our community,” said Taylor. “However, the kinds of bureaucracy he’s facing—any reference letter from our community isn’t going to carry much weight with Homeland Security, which are the people dealing with the border. This is way beyond what we can possibly intercede with. My attempt was just as a friend to testify as to his good will in the community.”
Taylor tells a story of remembering when Hedrick used to go around town wearing white, shrimping boots.
“He got the nickname of ‘Texas Randy’ because I guess he used to be a shrimper down there and he wore those white boots until they wore out,” said Taylor. “When I first moved to town in 1993, my daughter was with me and she said, ‘How can we move to a town where people go out and dance in rubber boots?’ and there was Randy wearing white rubber boots and dancing in the bar.”
Taylor said that Hedrick is quite the character and it would be sad to see him have to leave town.
“That’s the kind of guy the community really appreciates,” said Taylor. “We love our characters. Maybe he’ll come back to Grand Forks one day if he can sort out those issues in the U.S. We’d certainly welcome him back to Grand Forks.”