On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Daniel Tseghay and Daniel Wexel about the Transportation not Deportation campaign. It aims, in the wake of a particularly tragic case, to make public transit in the Vancouver area a place of safety and sanctuary for people regardless of their immigration status. And recently, they won a significant victory on the road to that goal.
Increasingly, border and citizenship regimes have become mechanisms through which marginalized populations are produced and controlled. One outcome of this in Canada is that more and more people — mostly people of colour from the Global South — are forced into situations of lacking documentation (also described as ‘being without status’), which makes them highly vulnerable to various forms of state sanction, including deportation. Part of what is so fraught about living without status is the ever-present risk that you’ll just be going about your life, working at your job, existing as part of your community, and something will happen that will bring you to the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency (or CBSA), who may then detain you, turn your life upside down, terrorize your family, and send you out of the country. This can happen, for instance, when accessing social and health services of various kinds, and many undocumented people avoid such services as a consequence (even though they generally pay taxes that contribute to making such services possible). Or, of direct relevance to today’s show, it can happen if you’re taking public transit home from work, you get racially profiled by transit police, and they turn you over the CBSA.
That happened late last year to Vancouver hotel worker Lucia Vega Jimenez. She later committed suicide in an immigration detention centre. Organizers with the No One Is Illegal group in that city decided they needed to know more about what led to this tragedy, and their digging uncovered an extensive record of collaboration between the Vancouver area transit police and the CBSA that was effectively turning the public transit system into a border checkpoint. This work eventually brought together folks from No One Is Illegal with other migrant justice organizers in a campaign called Transportation not Deportation. In the same spirit as those campaigns in cities around the continent which have carved out places of sanctuary, solidarity, and safety for undocumented people in various kinds of urgently needed services, Transportation not Deportation’s focus is a push to make public transit a place of safety for people regardless of migration status. And, recently, they won an important victory when the transit police formally cancelled the Memorandum of Understanding they had signed with CBSA (the existence of which they had earlier denied). It is unclear how far this victory goes, and more organizing is definitely required, but it is an important win on the path to creating and expanding spaces of safety and, ultimately, real justice for migrants on Turtle Island. Tseghay and Wexel spoke with me about the origins of the campaign, what they did to build its momentum, the recent victory, and the struggles still ahead.