How Canada, Mexico Deal with Police-Immigration Issues

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President-elect Donald Trump has promised to punish “sanctuary cities” that limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Since the election, cities such as Chicago and San Francisco have doubled down on their sanctuary policies, saying local police need to build trust with communities, including people in the U.S. illegally. Critics of sanctuary policies say the cities are fostering a sense of amnesty for people who break federal law, NPR reports. The argument is not unique to the U.S.; our neighbors to the north and south have also been grappling with the question of police involvement with national immigration law. A few Canadian cities have adopted the “sanctuary city” label, but they don’t offer the same kind of protection from law enforcement that U.S. sanctuary cities do. “When American jurisdictions are saying they’re sanctuary cities, and they’re actually saying they will not cooperate with immigration enforcement, that’s a really strong stand,” says Harsha Walia of the Canadian pro-immigration group No One Is Illegal. “That is not what municipal sanctuary cities here mean at all. They’re not at all talking about not collaborating with detention and deportation.”

In Mexico, police have been adapting to a different reality, resulting from a 2008 rewrite of its immigration law. “[It] decriminalized migration, so in theory it’s no longer a crime to be an illegal immigrant in Mexico,” says Jaime Arredondo Sanchez Lira, a former government official now at the Center for US-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. “That was a consequences of violence … tied to human trafficking,” Arredondo says. By making illegal immigration punishable only by a civil fine, the hope was that migrants moving through Mexico would be less vulnerable to abuse and extortion. Unfortunately, Arredondo says migrants are still often targeted by corrupt police and military.

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