SkyTrain vigil to protest immigration checks

By Stefania Seccia, for 24 hours
Thursday, December 11, 2014 3:59:29 PST PM

A new committee working on combating Transit Police reporting to the Canada Border Services Agency is hosting a vigil at the Main Street SkyTrain station Sunday to honour the one-year anniversary of Lucia Vega Jiménez’s death. Vega Jiménez hung herself while she was being detained by the CBSA in a detention centre, but it was a Transit Police officer who first arrested her because she gave two fake names before providing a Mexican government ID.

Transit Police contacted the CBSA 328 times in 2013, numbers that led to the formation of the Transportation not Deportation group comprised of concerned citizens, according to one of its members, Daniel Tseghay.

“Ultimately, we want public transportation that doesn’t have armed police and where police aren’t involved at all in enforcing immigration law, and are not involved in referring people to the CBSA,” he said.

Tseghay said life for immigrants is only getting harder: permanent residency is more difficult to acquire, temporary work permits are increasing, and offences leading to deportation can be minor.

“A number of changes in federal law is making it more difficult for migrants who just want to reside here,” he said. “We don’t want the (Transit) Police to take on that role to be doing the work of immigration enforcement.”

But Transit Police only contact the CBSA to identify someone they’ve pulled aside for fare evasion after exhausting all of their standard tools to identify a person who’s failed to provide identification, according to Anne Drennan, Transit Police spokeswoman.

“We check over one million people a year for fares,” she said. “And if you look at that in context, for over one million checks we made 328 contacts with the (CBSA). So, .03%, it’s very, very low.”

Transit Police are developing a policy that would not require victims or witnesses of a crime on transit to provide their immigration status, Drennan noted, but it will not relate to fare checks. The authority is also speaking to the new group about developing an alternative form of ID for immigrants who do not have government ID.

The Transportation not Deportation committee’s event is at 4 p.m. at the Main Street SkyTrain station.

– With files from Michael Mui

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