Immigration-enforcement statistics obtained by the Straight reveal that deportations and other actions have remained steady in recent years despite a string of victories by advocates pushing for a softer line on people who enter the country illegally.
The numbers were obtained via a freedom-of-information request that it took the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) more than 13 months to answer.
The data shows that CBSA Pacific Region officers initiated 2,413 investigations in B.C. in 2013, 2,563 in 2014, and 2,425 in 2015.
In 2013, the agency issued 499 removal orders in B.C., 475 in 2014, and 498 in 2015. The number of people CBSA has actually removed from B.C. has declined in recent years, from 2,149 in 2013, to 1,819 in 2014 and 1,482 in 2015.
The federal agency would not respond to questions about the data it supplied.
Byron Cruz is a long-time immigration advocate and a member of the Mayor’s Working Group on Immigration. He listed off a number of reforms that local agencies have implemented in recent years aimed at minimizing their involvement with Canada’s immigration police.
In 2014, transit police stopped referring people they apprehended to CBSA. The following year, Vancouver Coastal Health did the same. Soon after, the Fraser Health Authority, which operates 12 hospitals throughout the region, followed that lead. And in April 2016, Vancouver city councillors voted in favour of a “sanctuary city” plan that would see municipal services such as library cards and school enrollment disconnected from any problem an individual or their family might have with immigration authorities.
Yet CBSA enforcement statistics for B.C. remained stable. Cruz noted that the numbers might have declined in 2016, but he said he’s not optimistic.
“For me, the numbers are shocking,” Cruz told the Straight. “Despite all these initiatives, the numbers are very similar. It seems like what people have been telling us about CBSA having an enforcement quota is true.”
Cruz explained that the numbers could mean that with CBSA receiving fewer referrals from transit police and hospitals, border agents are engaging in more proactive enforcement, such as raids on construction sites.
“It’s a bit discouraging,” he added.