On Thursday, City Council voted in favour of Motion CD 18.5 — the so-called 'access without fear' motion — making Toronto Canada's first city with a formal policy allowing undocumented migrants access to City services such as foodbanks and homeless shelters.
The rationale of the 'don't ask don't tell' style policy is that some undocumented immigrants are causing themselves harm because they don't access services out of fear of detention or deportation.
"I think this is a historic moment,” Councillor Joe Mihevc told reporters according to Now Toronto.
"We’re saying we are a ‘Sanctuary City,’ and that anyone who is in the City of Toronto will be able to access all the services that the City of Toronto offers.
"That’s the kind of city that we want. We want to open our arms to anyone who comes here. While they’re here, mi casa es su casa."
Specifically, the motion, which passed by vote of 37 to 3, requires senior City staff to review opportunities to improve access without fear with regard to all city funded initiatives. It also inclines Council to lobby their provincial and federal counterparts for more friendly policies in the same regard.
One of dissenters was Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
"We shouldn’t encourage [undocumented immigrants]. We shouldn’t help them. We should not facilitate them. They are an insult to every immigrant who plays by the rule to get into the country. They are an insult to every immigrant who is waiting to enter this country legally," he told the Toronto Star.
"It sends a message to the world that it is okay to break the law to come to Canada and it says that the City of Toronto is an accomplice to this lawbreaking."
In addition to Minnan-Wong's concerns, some analysts worry that the new rules will encourage illegal immigrants from across the country to descend upon the Greater Toronto Area.
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Depending on whose statistics you choose to believe, there are already between 100,000 and 250,000 undocumented immigrants living in the GTA. The City suggests that this number includes those who have overstayed their visas and failed refugee claimants who, for whatever reason, haven't left the country.
According to the Star, there are 36 jurisdictions in the United States that already have similar 'sanctuary' policies.
(Photo courtesy of City of Toronto)
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