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On Friday February 20, Vancouver Transit Police announced that it will cease its agreement with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) and end its enforcement of federal immigration law.
The termination of the agreement is a huge victory for the Transportation not Deportation campaign.
"Transit Police informed representatives of the Transportation not Deportation campaign that they will terminate their Memorandum of Understanding with CBSA, that officers must receive permission from a Watch Commander to initiate contact with CBSA, and that they will not detain people without warrants for items that are simply contravention of immigration law," confirms Omar Chu of Transportation not Deportation in an email to rabble.
This triumph comes at a time when Vancouver's TransLink is a focal point of media attention due to the upcoming Transit Referendum.
"This victory by the Transportation not Deportation campaign was due, in large part, to being able to strategically target TransLink and Transit Police at a time, with the upcoming Transit referendum as well as a series of financial scandals, when they are particularly susceptible to backlash and are vulnerable to concerted organizing against their practices of privatization and militarization," says Harsha Walia of Transportation not Deportation in an email to rabble.
Transportation not Deportation is a collaboration between No One Is Illegal Vancouver and Sanctuary Health Coalition and is a direct result of both groups' work with migrants who were reported to CBSA by Transit Police or have seen or know others who were reported.
The primary demand of the campaign is that Transit Police should not ask for immigration status information and if they learn of someone's immigration status, not share that information with CBSA. People should be able to access public transit irrespective of their immigration status, and without fear of detention or deportation.
"Public transit is not be a border checkpoint. This [Memorandum of Understanding] should never have been in place but now as a direct result of grassroots community mobilizing including 40 organizations and over 1,500 people demanding an end to Transit Police and CBSA collaboration, Transit police will not be enforcing federal immigration policy," says Walia in a press release.
The Transit Police and CBSA have had a Memorandum of Understanding since 2007, and in 2013 alone Transit Police reported 328 people to CBSA, according to Transportation not Deportation.
The Transit Police have also made more referrals to CBSA -- including Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP -- with only 1.5 per cent of those referrals even having immigration warrants out.
This collaboration between Transit Police and the CBSA was highlighted when Lucia Vega Jimenez, a 42-year-old Mexican migrant, died in CBSA custody. Jimenez hung herself in a CBSA holding cell in the Vancouver International Airport awaiting deportation after the Transit Police reported her for an unpaid bus ticket in December of 2013.
After community research and consulation, Transportation not Deportation formed five demands:
End racial profiling by Transit Police on public transit and ensure access without fear of criminalization or deportation
Termination of the Memorandum of Understanding
Ensure a range of identification is accepted as sufficient to verify identity
Remove CBSA contact information and immigration-related databases from TransLink and Transit Police databases
Transit Police to cease the enforcement of federal immigration law by reporting people to the CBSA
These demands plus the petition will be presented on Friday, February 27 at the Transit Police Board Meeting to ensure the new policy is implemented.
To sign the petition and support the campaign's demands visit this link.
Photo: flickr/ Richard Eriksson
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