Hundreds of thousands of immigrants come to Canada every year. However, it is estimated that a percentage of immigrants in the country consists of undocumented migrants – those with pending or no status. These people typically face the threat of deportation anytime, so many live in fear of being discovered. As a result, they are afraid to avail of such things as health services, police guidance, and many others because these might lead to them being discovered and deported.
It is this situation that leads to the creation of the concept of sanctuary city, one that originated in the United States and is now gaining ground in Canada. The latest to show interest in adopting the concept is the city of Vancouver headed by Mayor Gregor Robertson. The city is following in the footsteps of Toronto and Hamilton, which already adopted the concept up to a certain extent, offering limited services to those who need them but are afraid to avail because of the threat of deportation.
The Current Situation in Vancouver
Right now, while the Sanctuary City movement is not yet adopted in Vancouver, undocumented migrants are faced with very limited options when it comes to their movement. Something as simple as getting a ticket violation and getting in contact with authorities can lead to deportation when their background is investigated and it is found out that they have no status in the country.
They cannot avail free medical services. They are also easy victims of abuse because they cannot ask help from authorities. They have no room for making mistakes. Any wrong move can mean being forced to leave the country. Undocumented migrants are living in constant fear.
What the Sanctuary City Movement Promises
When the sanctuary city concept is adopted (which is the goal of Mayor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party if they get elected in the upcoming November 2014 election), it would mean the lifting of limitation and fear among undocumented migrants. They can now avail services without getting deported because officials will not share their status information. They can have access to medical services, school services, police services, and many others without fear.
This is being advocated by the Vancouver city council knowing that many of the undocumented migrants are in their situation because of things that are out of their control, and should therefore be free from any consequences.
Vancouver as Sanctuary City: Challenges Ahead
The move for Vancouver to be a sanctuary city is not easy. There is resistance from the Federal Government, which thinks that this issue is covered by immigration policy and should be off limits to Mayor Robertson and his party. The party cannot expect much support from the government with regards to this.
Another resistance is coming from other entities that are not yet committed to becoming a part of this plan. Health authorities, police, school boards—all of these will need to be willing to participate in order for the plan to be successfully implemented.
Many details still have to be planned out and polished before this plan can come into effect. Right now, however, this offers a great promise to all undocumented immigrants who are living in the city of Vancouver.