Today, West Coast LEAF is calling on the City of Vancouver to become a “sanctuary city” in which everyone can access municipal services and police protection regardless of their immigration status, without fear of detention and deportation.

Frequently, migrants who do not have official immigration status may avoid accessing police or municipal services out of fear that their lack of legal status will be revealed and they will be separated from their children, detained or deported.

For example, in December 2013, Lucia Vega Jiménez was picked up by transit police over an unpaid fare and turned over to immigration officials. After spending two weeks in detention, she committed suicide while awaiting deportation to Mexico, a country she had fled due to inadequate protection from domestic violence. In the aftermath of her death, it was revealed that transit police had turned over 328 migrants to the Canadian Border Services Agency in 2013 alone.

Women who are victims of violence are rendered particularly vulnerable by these practices. For example, women without status or with precarious immigration status are often forced to choose between remaining in an abusive relationship and living without access to critical social services and police protection on the one hand, and deportation or detention on the other. Women in our city who are accessing services to deal with the impacts of violence must not have to choose between their safety and their liberty.

West Coast LEAF urges Vancouver to become a sanctuary city and adopt a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” refers to a policy that prevents service providers and law enforcement from asking about a person’s immigration status and disclosing it to immigration officials.

In doing so, West Coast LEAF joins Sanctuary and Solidarity City movements in Vancouver and across North America, as well as targeted community campaigns such as Transportation not Deportation.