By TOM GODFREY
More migrant workers are being rounded up for deportation even though Ontario government officials promised to cut ties with the Canadian border agency, advocacy groups say.
At least three workers were arrested last week despite assurances by Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca that his officials had severed ties with the Canada Border Services Agency, (CBSA) according to the group, No One Is Illegal.
The Ontario government and CBSA have come under fire from the public for the last August mass arrests of 21 undocumented workers in traffic stops in the Jane and Finch area.
Most of the men were from Latin American countries that had been here for a while and were working without status in the booming construction trades.
The men were passengers in vehicles that were pulled over by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Their documents were examined by the CBSA for alleged immigration infractions.
More than 12 of the workers have been deported and a few others are awaiting removal from Canada.
There have been other reports of workers being arrested in street checks by CBSA agents at the Dufferin Mall and area cafes and bakeries.
Group spokesman Syed Hussein said the men arrested last week were detained following traffic stops.
Hussein said the three were deported to Mexico within days, with some leaving their families behind in Canada.
They included refugee claimants, Javier Meza and Alejandro Perez, who were arrested while driving home in a van from a job site in Halton Hills.
The men claim they were travelling along Hwy 401, near Trafalgar Rd., when they were flagged for a vehicle check.
“According to the men, the transportation officer tricked them and called Halton Regional Police,” the group said in a statement. “Police arrived and upon learning that they were undocumented, arrested them and drove them to a second location.”
Meza leaves behind his wife and two teenage children. They had been living in Canada for almost six years.
“My family and I have suffered a lot for many months,” Meza said before he was deported. “We are hard-working people and we only want a better life for our families.”
Perez, who’s been living in Canada for 12 years, said he was treated like a criminal.
“They treated us like if we had killed someone,” he said in a statement from behind bars. “I was put in handcuffs and everyone was watching as if we were involved in the most dangerous crime.”
The men believe they were racially profiled for immigration checks because they are Latinos who were working in the construction trades.
Community activist, Vilma Filici, said the CBSA should be helping the workers to “regularize” their status in Canada rather than removing them.
“It is a shame that they are targeting people because they are workers,” said Filici. “These people were identified because of the vehicles they were driving.”
The group has filed a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman calling for an investigation into the alleged racial profiling and anti-migrant detentions that resulted from last August’s traffic stops.
The complaint is also seeking an investigation of other Ontario agencies, like the OPP, for their involvement in federal immigration enforcement.
There have been a number of protests by groups in Jane-Finch and elsewhere demanding that the province get out of the immigration enforcement business and that Premier Kathleen Wynne declare Ontario a sanctuary province, where undocumented workers can access government services.
Toronto and Hamilton have already been deemed sanctuary cities.
Another demonstration is being planned by the group to protest the most recent deportations. No date has been set.