TransLink and Transit Police: Stop Turning Public Transit into a Border Checkpoint

Posted by admin on Dec 31st, 2014

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After working a night shift at a Vancouver hotel, Mexican migrant Lucia Vega Jimenez rode the SkyTrain home on December 1st, 2012. 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.

Every day, at various skytrain stations and bus stops in the Greater Vancouver area, Transit Police – the only armed transit police force in the country – profile people of colour and turn migrants like Lucia over to Canadian Border Services Agency.

Transit Police reported 328 people to CBSA in 2013, one in five of whom 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.

Only 1.5% of all those referred to CBSA had immigration warrants out.

Since 2007, Transit Police and the Pacific Region Enforcement Center of CBSA have a Memorandum of Understanding. The “success” of their collaboration depends on the number of reports of migrants made by Transit Police to CBSA. According to a local lawyer, “Some weeks as high as 50 per cent of the fresh [immigration] arrests are coming from Transit Police referrals.”

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Our public transit system should not be a border checkpoint. Metro Vancouver’s 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. Ticketing and deporting people for $2.75 unpaid fare is double punishment. Even police agencies in the U.S. are refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.

We call on TransLink, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, and the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (Transit Police) to:

1) End the profiling of people on our public transit system and ensure access without fear of criminalization or deportation to all residents.

2) Stop turning people over to CBSA and stop enforcing federal immigration law, particularly given that most Transit Police referrals to CBSA are for situations where no warrant even exists.

3) Terminate the Memorandum of Understanding between Transit Police and CBSA.

4) Ensure that a range of identification is accepted as sufficient to verify identity when needed.

5) Remove CBSA phone numbers as well as all immigration-related databases from Translink and Transit Police databases.


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