British ColumbiaBritish Columbia news
Updated: Sat, 16 Mar 2013 00:21:57 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

B.C. migrant workers face deportation after raid



B.C. migrant workers face deportation after raid

Construction workers who were filmed by a reality TV crew while they were arrested by border agents made their first appearance before the Immigration and Refugee Board in Vancouver on Friday.

Five workers are being detained pending hearings on their eligibility to stay in Canada, while a sixth was released on conditions.

CBSA officers swooped down on the construction site on Victoria Drive on Wednesday and arrested the men, who were suspected of working illegally.

Afterwards, the production crew asked the suspects in custody to sign release forms so they could broadcast their images.

Diana Thompson’s husband, Tulio Hernandez, faces deportation back to Honduras.

“I feel that it makes it that much worse,” Thompson said on Thursday. “That these companies are going to profit off a reality show of them, basically tearing families apart.”

The CBSA says it was looking for one migrant who had a criminal history, but found several others without proper documentation.

Immigration lawyer Douglas Cannon says CBSA officers should not be accompanied by TV cameras.

"If these people show up with cameras, filming potential refugee claimants at work, those refugee claimants may very well have an increased risk to return to their country," said Cannon.

"Even if you try to tell them, 'Oh yeah, I realized after that you are a refugee claimant. Don't worry we won't broadcast that ' — you've already created fear because they were told they get to have a private process."

Privacy laws respected say producers

Both CBSA and Force Four Entertainment, the company that produces the reality TV show Border Security for Shaw Media, insist privacy laws were respected.

A statement from the CBSA also said that participation in the television series is strictly voluntary.

"An individual’s case will not be negatively or positively impacted by their decision to participate or not," the statement read.

On Thursday afternoon, Force Four Entertainment spokesman Andrew Poon issued a written statement saying no one will be identified in the programs without their written permission and even with consent, their names will not be revealed.

Poon also said that "no one is filmed without their advance verbal permission."

Union concerned about show

But Dan Robinson, a spokesman for the Customs and Immigration Union that represents the border agents, says he also has reservations about the show.

"We don't know what Force Four will choose to do in terms of actual final production. We don't know what is spliced or comments will be taken out of context and that's why we are concerned for our members," said Robinson.

One of the men detained by Canadian Border Services Agents says he was confused when he was handed a release for a reality TV show.

Oscar Mata says when he was in custody, producers asked him to sign a release so they could broadcast his image.

"I ask the guy, 'Why is there a camera?' and they say, 'No, don't worry, it's a reality show,'" said Mata.

He says the whole event was confusing, and on Thursday he was packing his bags to return to Mexico.

"I know it's the job for these guys…but I don't like the camera."

According to the show's website, Border Security: Canada’s Front Line is produced by Shaw Media in Vancouver and shadows CBSA officers working at air, land, and marine crossings in B.C.’s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

The show is broadcast on the National Geographic Channel and is produced by Vancouver-based Force Four Entertainment.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams

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