Media

February 23, 2015 in Metro News

Activist Harsha Walia 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.

February 23 in Rabble

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.

February 20, 2015 on Global News

“This MOU should never have been in place but now thanks to grassroots community mobilizing including forty organizations and over 1500 people who signed our petition, transit police has made a commitment to stop enforcing federal immigration policy. Public transit should not be a border checkpoint,” she said.

In 2013, Transit Police reported 328 people to the CBSA. It usually happens when someone doesn’t give identification after being stopped for fare evasion. Under the MOU, Transit Police will contract the CBSA if the person in question appears to be an undocumented immigrant, and hold them for the CBSA until they arrive. One of those people was Lucia Vega Jiménez, whose subsequent death in a holding cell prompted a year-long investigation.

Drennan says the change won’t prevent Transit Police from contacting CBSA in the future – but they’ll no longer be detaining people.

February 20, 2015 in Vancouver Sun

Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan says the force has discontinued its agreement with the border agency, and an individual must be wanted on an outstanding warrant before officers make a similar arrest.

She says the coroner’s inquest that followed the death of Jimenez stimulated discussion and brought the issue to the forefront.

Harsha Walia of Transportation Not Deportation says about 40 community groups backed her organization’s demand for change, which believes transit should not be a border checkpoint.

February 20, 2015, on News 1130

Omar Chu with Transportation not Deportation says Transit Police should never be obligated to enforce federal immigration policy.

“Transit Police were carrying out immigration investigations on behalf of the CBSA. And this was creating fear among certain portions of our community who were afraid of riding transit.”

Saturday Dec 20, 2014 on Redeye radio:

Daniel Tseghay on Transportation not Deportation and the troubling links between transit police and border services.

December 14th, 2014 in Vancouver Sun:

Walia said advocates, including members of No One is Illegal and Sanctuary Health, who launched a campaign called Transportation Not Deportation, are asking for several changes, including:

• A policy on what kind of identification is acceptable and the immediate acceptance of different kinds of identification, including non-government forms such as food bank and community centre cards or bills showing place of residence.

• Changes to the way Transit police use CBSA databases. “Ultimately, we don’t think they should be using these, but if they are, we would like to know when and under what circumstances this is happening,” said Walia. “There is no need to do this. When you get a parking ticket or are dealing with any other municipal bylaw, CBSA is not called.”

• An end to collaboration and referral of cases between Transit police and CBSA. “We have heard that one in five referrals from Transit police to CBSA has resulted in an immigration investigation,” said Walia. “What were the grounds for these?”

December 14th, 2014 in Metro News:

The vigil was organized by a new committee called Transportation not Deportation to honour Jimenez and demand that what happened to her never repeats itself, committee member Omar Chu said.

The committee’s goal is to convince transit police cut ties with the CBSA, Chu said. It takes issue with transit officers helping with the CBSA deport migrants, whose unwilling departures can split up families and send people back to dangerous situations in their home countries. (Jimenez feared returning to Mexico because of her ex-boyfriend.)

Transit police reported 328 people to the CBSA last year. At the inquest into Jimenez’s death, the officer who arrested her admitted he called CBSA in part because of her accent.

“For us, that was clear evidence of racial profiling,” Chu said.

December 13th, 2014 on Global News:

Sonia Sunger speaks to Daniel Tseghay of Transportation Not Deportation about a planned vigil for Lucia Vega Jiménez.

December 12th, 2014 an Op-ed in Ricochet:

Harsha Walia Daniel Tseghay Sarah St. John Omar Chu Daisy Chen:

Through an Access to Information request made by the authors, we recently obtained CBSA documentation that describes a “close working relationship” with Transit Police that goes deeper than Drennan’s administrative explanation. The 2013 report Transit Police referrals to the Canada Border Services Agency states that “CBSA Liaison Officers from the Inland Enforcement Section conducted multiple training sessions on the Immigration Enforcement Program for the majority of Transit Police Officers in February 2013.” The document describes providing “training and awareness of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and [highlighting] some recent successful cases.”

December 12th, 2014 in Georgia Straight:

In a telephone interview, Daniel Tseghay, an organizer with Transportation Not Deportation and No One Is Illegal, argued Transit Police should not play a role in immigration matters that can lead to deportation.

“What we’re finding is a lot of referrals to the CBSA are coming from Transit Police,” he told the Straight. “So if we’re going to be talking about the CBSA, if we are going to be talking about detentions and deportations of migrants, we have to talk about the very specific ways in which those practices are enforced.”

Tseghay said Transportation Not Deportation is calling for three specific policy reforms. The first is for Transit Police to stop collaborating with CBSA. The second, he continued, is for Transit Police officers to cease carrying firearms. And a “long-term” goal is for public transit in Metro Vancouver to be made accessible for all marginalized groups or even be made free.

December 11th, 2014 in Vancouver Sun:

In response, members of No One Is Illegal and Sanctuary Health launched a campaign called Transportation Not Deportation to discourage Transit police from working with CBSA. Last year, Transit police called CBSA 328 times, said organizer Omar Chu. The group will hold a vigil at the Main Street station on Sunday, a few days before the anniversary of Jimenez’s death, to encourage Transit police to stop this practice.

“If you were someone who didn’t take transit and you drove, then law enforcement would not be involved. You would get a parking ticket and CBSA would not be involved in that,” Walia said. “There’s no reason they need to be turned over to CBSA or (Vancouver police) or any other law enforcement agency.”

December 11th, 2014 in 24 Hours:

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.”

December 11th, 2014 on News 1130:

“Once a fare check’s been made, then calls to the CBSA are being made, based on racial profiling,” claims Omar Chu with a new group called “Transportation Not Deportation.”

He says Transit Police reported over 300 people to the Canada Border Services Agency last year. “All of those referrals have been… without warrant.”

Chu tells us one in five of those people faced a subsequent immigration investigation.

He points to the case of Lucia Vega Jiménez, who committed suicide in a YVR holding cell; he refers to the testimony of the transit officer, who turned her over to the CBSA.

“A large part of the reason why he referred her was because of her accent and because he didn’t think that she was from Canada.”

Chu says Transit Police reported 328 people to the CBSA last year, one in five of whom faced a subsequent immigration investigation.

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