Transit Should Not Be a Border Checkpoint
After working a night shift at a Vancouver hotel, Mexican migrant Lucia Vega Jimenez rode the SkyTrain home last year on December 1st. At approximately 10 a.m, Transit Police boarded her train. They stopped Jimenez because she couldn’t provide proof of payment, but racial profiling escalated the situation and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) was called in.
“I understood that she had an accent when I spoke with her,” Transit Police Constable Jason Schuss later testified. “With that, I could tell she wasn’t originally from Canada.” Three weeks after he turned Jimenez over to CBSA for deportation, she committed suicide in-custody.
We believe our public transit system should not be a border checkpoint for people like Lucia. Translink and Transit Police should not ask for or retain immigration status information, and should they learn of someone’s immigration status they should not share that information with CBSA. Even police agencies in the U.S. are refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.
Translink and Transit Police collaboration with Canada Border Services Agency:
1) Transit Police reported 328 people to CBSA in 2013.
2) One in five of those reported to CBSA faced a subsequent immigration investigation including deportation. This suggests that the other 80% were racially profiled based on their assumed legal status and country of origin.
3) Only 1.5% of all those referred to CBSA even had immigration warrants out. From November 4, 2014 to December 24, 2014, the CBSA Immigration Warrant Response Centre only received 1 warrant enquiry and 1 database verification, but almost 50 status check inquiries.
4) Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan DENIED any formal collaboration between Transit Police and CBSA, telling media they had “no actual policy in place”. However we found that Transit Police and the Pacific Region Enforcement Center of CBSA have a Memorandum of Understanding since 2007.
5) The “success” of their collaboration explicitly depends on the number of reports and arrests of migrants. A Transit Police 5-year trend report notes: “Transit Police represented a significant proportion of the Police Agency referrals to the CBSA offices.” A Translink press release similarly brags: “Transit Police have a strong relationship with CBSA and annually investigate a significant number of over-stays and other immigration violations in partnership with CBSA.”
6) CBSA officers have carried out trainings for Transit Police on immigration enforcement.
7) From November 2012 to January 2013, Transit police made had more referrals to CBSA than any other BC police force including the VPD and RCMP. According to a local lawyer, “Some weeks as high as 50 per cent of the fresh [immigration] arrests are coming from Transit Police referrals. When I go in and meet a new client, and I say, ‘What caused you to be in detention today?’ they start with, ‘I was on the Sky–.’ I know exactly how it’s going to end.”
8) When issuing a ticket, Transit Police have the arbitrary power to determine when they are “satisfied” they have established a person’s identity. Transit Police have no written policy on acceptable identification. This discretionary authority emboldens Transit Police to contact CBSA.
9) Public transportation is increasingly militarized and privatized. Transit Police in the Lower Mainland are the only armed transit police force in the country, with an annual budget of $31 million that is expected to grow 25 per cent over the next few years.
10) Not all those who are turned over to CBSA are for reasons of fare enforcement. An information report from the Transit Police Chief this year states, “not all transit police referrals to CBSA have their origin from fare enforcement initiatives.” This suggests that, under other pretenses, Transit Police are themselves initiating immigration investigations.