Sanctuary Health endorses this statement released by our friends at No One Is Illegal about the inquest into Lucia Vega Jimenez's death in CBSA custody.The BC Coroners Service is currently conducting an inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez. Jimenez was a 42-year Mexican hotel worker who died while in Canadian Border Service Agency’s custody in December 2013 after being turned over to immigration authorities by TransLink police. Just prior to her scheduled deportation to Mexico, she hung herself in a cell at the Vancouver International Airport. She died eight days later, on December 28, 2013.
As part of a coalition of grassroots immigrant, community and Latin American groups, we have been denied participant status at the inquest. With the inquest coming to a close, we would nonetheless like to take this opportunity to reiterate our vision and demands.
Specifically with respect to the tragic death of Lucia and the subsequent one-month coverup by CBSA, we demand:
1. A public apology by CBSA, Minister of Safety Stephen Blaney, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Lucía’s family and those who love her and miss her;
2. Compensation to Lucia’s family particularly since she was the main economic support for her ailing mother.
Over the past ten years we have supported migrant detainees on a daily basis and have organized against the injustice of migrant detention. Seeking asylum is a right yet an increasing number of people who have been forced to flee their homes are being placed behind bars in Canada. They are held in conditions of imprisonment that are fundamentally inhumane and degrading.
Last year alone, 10,088 people were detained by the CBSA (one of them was Lucia). This included over 200 children. These migrant detainees spent a total of 183,928 days in immigration detention. One-third of all migrant detainees are held in provincial prisons, including in maximum-security facilities. Migrants are the only population within Canada who can be incarcerated simply on administrative grounds without being charged with a specific criminal offence. Unlike those charged with the offences under the criminal (in)justice system, migrant detainees are not sentenced and so have no idea when they will be released.
Migrants are essentially detained for trespassing an artificially created border on stolen Indigenous lands.
1. An end to the wide, discretionary and arbitrary powers given to CBSA officers to detain migrants;
2. An end to all processes of immigration detention especially given that migrant detention in Canada is unjust, arbitrary and often indefinite;
3. An end to deportations and permanent status for all migrants upon landing;
4. An end to the criminalization of migration;
5. Addressing the root causes of displacement and migration.
SHORT TERM RECOMMENDATIONS:
In the short-term we advocate:
1. Shutting down the holding cells below the Vancouver International Airport;
2. An end to indefinite immigration detention, instead instituting a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation. Limits on detentions called presumptive periods are the norm in most Western countries;
3. No immigration detention in maximum-security prisons;
4. An end to the practice of mandatory detention for irregular arrivals under the Refugee Exclusion Act;
5. Independent civilian oversight of CBSA;
6. End of enforcement cooperation with CBSA by non-immigration public bodies including but not limited to TransLink and the Transit Police;
7. Overhaul of the judicial and adjudication process so that migrants have fair and full access to judicial review, legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation;
8. An end to the two-tier discriminatory refugee system and designated countries of origin (‘safe countries’) under the Refugee Exclusion Act.
9. Increased transparency by CBSA (without violating detainee privacy rights) to include disclosure by CBSA on a monthly basis about how many detainees are in CBSA custody, in which holding center, and for what length of time.
The following short term recommendations with respect to detainee rights should be implemented immediately:
10. Free phone calls and internet access;
11. Free multilingual books and reading material, as well as access to artistic and literary workshops;
12. Access to legal counsel, NGOs and family members for visits and monitoring;
13. Access to interpreters;
14. Unrestricted legal line and access to legal aid;
15. No shackling or cuffing of detainees including during transport;
16. Access to mental health support and medical care as requested;
17. Access to exercise equipment, yard time, fresh air, and windows.
WE OPPOSE CERTAIN RECOMMENDATIONS:
We believe the following recommendations are counter to the principles of migrant dignity and freedom:
1. Electronic monitoring or any alternative to detention that continues to surveil migrants;
2. Detention centers and prison expansion including privatization and the offloading of government accountability onto corporate interests;
3. Any increased length in detention periods;
4. Measures that purport to increase detainee safety but that, in effect, increase scrutiny and invade privacy such as cameras and regular cell checks that involve, for example, waking up detainees.
As grassroots anti-colonial migrant justice organizers, we struggle for the right to remain, the freedom to move, and the right to return. We are all human and are not inferior or undesirable due to our migration status, race, gender, class or ability. We actively strive for a humanity where everyone has the right to sustenance and the ability to provide it, where we are all free of oppression and exploitation, where each of us has control over decisions that affect our bodies and our communities, and where everyone is able to live meaningfully in respectful and responsible relationships to one another and the earth.