HOURS after Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced cutting ties with immigration enforcement on Thursday, September 25, at least three other undocumented men were racially profiled, stopped by Transportation officials, and handed over to police and immigration enforcement, migrant justice organizers have learned. One of them has been deported while the other two are currently in detention. Outraged, community members are calling for their release, an expedited Ombudsman investigation, and a declaration of Ontario as a sanctuary province.
Javier Meza, a refugee claimant and father of two (girl 14, boy 12), who has been in Canada with his children and wife for nearly six years was driving. Speaking with No One Is Illegal – Toronto (NOII) on the phone from the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, he said: “I was identified because of my orange shirt and for my Latino face, and because I was driving a truck. I am outraged as a Latino because they are stopping us and only us. We are hardworking people and we only want to give a better life to our families. Every penny I have earned I have done honestly. What hurts me the most that people abuse undocumented people’s labour. My family and I have suffered a lot, many months of my wages were never paid to me. Even if I am deported, I just want to say other people should not be abused and go through what I did.”
Javier Meza and Alejandro Perez were returning home from work in Halton Hills, Ontario, on Thursday, when a Ministry of Transportation van started tailing them near 401 and Trafalgar. They were followed in to their employer’s driveway, asked to return to the road and ordered to a nearby parking lot. There, Transportation officials took ID documents from Mr Perez who was driving and told them their vehicle was being inspected. According to the men, the transportation officer tricked them there, and called Halton Regional Police. Police officers arrived, IDd the driver and passengers, and upon learning that they were undocumented, arrested them and drove them to a second location where private security officials from G4S took them in custody and drove them to Toronto Immigration Holding Centre.
“From what we can tell, either Ontario Minister Steven Del Duca made a bold-faced lie to the public or he simply doesn’t have a clue what his Ministry is up to,” says No One Is Illegal – Toronto organizer Samay Arcentales who spoke with Alejandro Perez. “In either case, such racial profiling and collusion with Harper’s anti-migrant agenda is disgusting, and it must stop. The buck must stop with Kathleen Wynne. She must declare Ontario a Sanctuary province, and all provincial staff must be trained to support undocumented people, not push them in to harm’s way.”
NOII has filed a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman urging a public investigation of the racial profiling, and anti-migrant detentions that similarly took place in the guise of vehicle safety stops on August 14th. The complaint also calls for an investigation of other Ontario agencies’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement. Statements from Meza and Perez will be forwarded to the Ontario Ombudsman shortly.
Alejandro Perez who has been in Canada 12 years was arrested with Meza. Speaking to NOII’s Estefania Rueda on the phone from immigration prison he added, “They treated us like criminals. As if I had killed someone. With handcuffs and everyone watching at the gas station so people assume that we were involved in the most dangerous crime. Even in my detention hearing on Monday, they don’t let you speak, they make you feel guilty.
“They tricked us and I think that is wrong. Immigration told me that now, specifically Mexicans, people have to leave. They told me that it is an order of the government of Canada to get rid of Mexicans. We were racially profiled. The were more trucks and they didn’t bother the driver or the copilot.”
Perez initially contacted Isabel Inclan, a correspondent for Notimex, a Mexican Newswire Agency who forwarded the information to Immigration and Refugee law instructor, and community activist Vilma Filici. Filici then forwarded the information to NOII.
Filici added, “It is a shame that they are targeting people because they are workers. They were identified because of the vehicles they were driving. Immigration shouldn’t be going after these people, it should be regularizing their immigration status.”