Undocumented migrants urge city to cut ties between police and border services
Published Sunday, June 18, 2017 7:07PM EDT Last Updated Sunday, June 18, 2017 9:53PM EDT
Some demonstrators wore orange wings, like those of the monarch butterfly.
For those at a weekend rally held at Mandela Park in Cote-des-Neiges, these wings are a symbol of the ability to travel anywhere, without borders or restrictions: something that undocumented migrants within the city are unable to do.
They're asking that the city give them more protection from deportation threats, and easier access to a range of services.
In February, Montreal’s city council voted unanimously to become a sanctuary city, one that would offer shelter, housing, and access to food banks for immigrants without status.
Montreal is only the fourth city in Canada to do so—a step in the right direction, migrants say, but there are still strides to be made in the city’s handling of immigration issues.
They’re pushing for Montreal to be more generally accepting of undocumented migrants, providing them with additional access to health care and work permits.
Despite the initial welcoming image projected by Canada to the hundreds of migrants crossing the border into Canada via the US, some people are growing disillusioned with it.
Zain Alabdullah, speaking through a translator, explains how she was struck by images in the news of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeting other Syrians at the airport.
“[Trudeau] assured that Canada had its doors open,” Alabdullah said.
But after fleeing Syria two months ago and illegally crossing into Quebec, she is left in limbo, as she doesn't qualifty for refugee status in Canada.
Held as a political detainee in Aleppo, Alabdullah not only suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder: she lives in fear of being sent back to a country too hostile to comfortably call home.
In fact, a large number of asylum seekers feel less than secure in their day-to-day: despite Montreal’s sanctuary status, people still live in fear of being ousted from the relative security of their new homes.
Marcia—a pseudonym used along with a mask to conceal her identity – is fearful of her future as an undocumented immigrant.
“To be permanent residents, I hope for the best for myself and for others,” she said.
Protestors are vocal about their desire for the city of Montreal to push further for the safety of migrants, and encourage police to stop collaborating with the Canada Border Services Agency.
If someone without status is arrested, they may be deported—this very procedure is what the refugee groups are pushing back against.
“On the one hand, [Montreal] calls itself a sanctuary city, and on the other hand, it cooperates with the repressive border police who are sending people back to the US as a supposed safe third country,” explained activist Robert McBride.
Many of the protestors who gathered to show their support in Cote-des-Neiges agree that the city should cut its ties with border services – something that activists believe is essential for the overall functioning of a sanctuary city.
Especially considering that Quebec boasts the highest number of illegal crossings from the United States -- 742 crossings were made in May, according to data collected by the Federal Government.
“It’s very encouraging that Montreal wants to at least symbolically go in that direction,” said Rosalind Wong of Solidarity Against Borders. “But for us, it goes beyond to a strict non-collaboration between police services and the border.”
“That’s what, at lease traditionally, has happened in other sanctuary cities,” Wong explained.