Transit police end CBSA agreement after Mexican migrant’s death

Transit police end CBSA agreement after Mexican migrant’s death
By Matt Kieltyka Metro

Metro Vancouver Transit Police is ending a policy with Canadian Border Services Agency that played a role in the lead-up to the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez in 2013.

The department announced on Friday it has discontinued a Memorandum of Understanding with the CBSA and will only arrest people during fare checks if they have outstanding warrants, regardless of their immigration status.

Jimenez, an undocumented migrant from Mexico, died days after hanging herself in a Vancouver airport holding cell while awaiting deportation in December 2013 – having been taken into custody initially by Transit Police during a fare check.

“We’re trying to move as much as possible to what we would consider to be fundamental community policing,” Transit police spokeswoman Anne Drennan told The Canadian Press of the policy change. “In our case, as Transit Police, we want all persons to be able to access transit regardless of their status.”

The change in policy came after Transit Police met with the Transportation Not Deportation rights group on Friday.

Activist Harsha Walia, who was at the meeting, told Metro many undocumented migrants are victims of circumstance or flaws in the immigration system and welcomes the reform.

“Folks who are undocumented should still be able to access community services like transit without fear,” she said on Sunday. “They need transit to go to work. They have employment and pay taxes, people become part of our country. They’re put at an added disadvantage when they’re afraid to go on transit because it serves as a checkpoint.”

The co-operation between CBSA and Transit Police was under-reported before Jimenez’s death and the scrutiny that followed led to Friday’s changes, Walia said.

According to its statement, Transit Police said it will from now on leave federal authorities in charge of following-up with any undocumented migrants encountered during fare enforcement instead of getting directly involved.

It will also determine a new “acceptable range” of identification documents for fare enforcement enquiries.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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