Vancouver approves ‘Access Without Fear’ policy for undocumented immigrants

April 6, 2016

By CBC News |

Vancouver city council unanimously agreed Wednesday to approve a policy that will allow residents with uncertain, or even no immigration status, to access city services without having to fear they may be reported and ultimately detained, or deported.

Though limited in scope, council and immigration advocates view the policy as a step towards influencing police, health authorities and other municipalities to come up with similar measures to protect those who fear they may be detained or deported on the basis of their immigration status

The policy — titled “Access to City Services without Fear (ACSWF) for Residents with Uncertain or No Immigration Status” — states that city staff will not ask for immigration status before providing certain services, and will also not pass information about immigration to other levels of government unless required by law.

The policy will apply to city services including fire and rescue, community services such as homeless outreach shelters and non-market housing, and some other services.

The report states that currently “the city is not aware of any city services that require the collection of immigration status information.”

Policy applies to city services, not police

“The concern is that these two groups of people [those with uncertain or no immigration status] are holding themselves back from having access to city services,” said Zool Suleman, an immigration lawyer who worked on drafting the policy as a member of the mayor’s working group on immigration.

“For example, if there’s an emergency and say the fire truck comes … the question becomes: Are they afraid the person who is coming to help them will take their data and report them to Canada Border Services [Agency]?

“If they’re victims of crime are they afraid to call police because they think the police will report them?”

The issue of agencies reporting immigrants who are undocumented or without status received widespread attention after Lucia Jimenez, a Mexican, died in CBSA custody in December 2014 after coming into contact with Transit Police.

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