By TOM GODFREY
The profiling of migrant workers in Toronto for deportation by border officials has fanned out from traffic stops to arrests at Dufferin Mall and area coffee shops, warns an irate MP whose residents are complaining.
NDP Andrew Cash has been receiving calls from social agencies about residents in his Davenport riding who have been targeted for checks near Dufferin Mall and area cafes and bakeries by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Cash said he’s concerned about the street checks in light of the August 14 arrests of 21 mostly Hispanic migrant workers by the CBSA and OPP during a series of traffic checks in the Jane and Finch area.
At least five of the workers were deported to Latin American countries within days. Some others are still being detained.
“Immigrant families in my community have become increasingly worried that they can’t go to Dufferin Mall or their local bakery for a coffee without submitting to a random spot check,” Cash has told Share.
The NDP Critic for Multiculturalism accused the CBSA of “racially-targeted spot-checks” to search for out-of-status migrants.
“I think the CBSA have overstepped their bounds,” an angry Cash alleged. “We are dealing with communities where English may not be the first language and there may be difficulties.”
He said members of the Portuguese and Latino communities are the ones being profiled for checks. Many work underground in the construction trades.
“I have many concerns about this practice,” Cash said. “It is deeply disturbing that the Conservatives have resorted to racial profiling to remove people in the GTA who are out of status.”
He said many residents are worried about leaving home or going to work on job sites, that they believe may be raided by the CBSA.
Cash was supported by NDP colleague, MPP Teresa Armstrong, who last week demanded to know why Ontario was using roadside checks of commercial vehicles to help round up undocumented migrants.
“This is very disturbing news,” Armstrong said in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne. This “has led to more questions than answers about what really happened and what role your government played resulting in these immigration arrests”.
She is demanding information on the use of Ontario resources in a federal sting operation against vulnerable migrant workers.
The NDP was joined by the Ontario Federation of Labour that called for an investigation into racial profiling by the CBSA, the OPP and Ontario Ministry of Transportation for their roles in the arrests.
“This is completely unacceptable,” the OFL said in a release. “The actions of the CBSA bear all the distinctions of “raids” targeted towards people of colour who have been racially profiled.”
The federation is demanding to know why the deportations were fast-tracked and the men allegedly coerced into signing papers that were not adequately translated.
Migrant workers are “vulnerable to exploitation and rights violations as a result of discriminatory immigration and labour policy,” the OFL said. “Undocumented workers deserve protection – not prosecution.”
The OFL is calling for a Migrant Workers’ Bill Of Rights to ensure all workers in Ontario have access to permanent residency and can live with dignity.
“These unfair immigration laws must be changed,” the OFL said, adding that employer and recruiter should be registered and licensed and for proactive enforcement to prevent exploitation.
Meanwhile, migrant rights group No One is Illegal is planning more activities to protest the CBSA sweeps. They are calling for Ontario to be deemed a sanctuary province where undocumented workers can access social services.
More than 700 people have signed a petition calling for the detainees to be released and the immigration sweeps to end.
CBSA officials have said they are doing their jobs and have refused to comment on the detentions.