Wives of the allegedly illegal workers whose arrests were filmed for a reality TV series Wednesday say their families’ suffering shouldn’t be sold as entertainment.
Diana Thompson was among other heartbroken spouses and activists who protested the Canada Border Services Agency’s Vancouver busts as heavy-handed and dehumanizing on Thursday.
Tears streamed down Thompson’s face as she described her failed struggle to sponsor her husband Tulio Renan Aviles Hernandez.
“We tried to do everything, everything possible to keep him here,” she said. “I wish the government would take a look at how hard he was working to support his family.”
On Wednesday, CBSA agents cracked down on an unconfirmed number of construction sites across the city; at one location on Victoria Drive, they were accompanied by a crew filming the reality series Border Security.
Witness Mindy Shepard said four or five unmarked cars pulled up to the scene and armed guards placed around 10 workers in handcuffs.
“They actually had the [camera] crew in this guy’s face and he was being interrogated by a border guard,” Shepard said. “I don’t know, it was creepy. It was really creepy. It was like being in Texas, it wasn’t like being in Vancouver.”
Members of the immigration advocacy group No One is Illegal said it’s appalling that people are profiting off the trials of families in B.C., whether documented or undocumented.
Harsha Walia said she’s also concerned the presence of TV cameras can unnecessarily escalate what should be routine CBSA arrests.
“Border Service agents, I would argue, are going to be more [pressured] to make their raids more sensationalist,” Walia said.
Protesters say after the workers were incarcerated, they were pressed to sign consent forms that would allow their faces to be used on the air.
Force Four Entertainment, which produces the series, insists it works under strict parameters set by the CBSA and abides by Canadian privacy laws.
“No one is filmed without their advance verbal permission and a written release is obtained only once the person has been properly cautioned by officers,” the company said in an email statement.
“Before any story appears in a program, it is vetted by CBSA and Force Four’s lawyers to ensure privacy rights are observed.”
The union representing CBSA officers said it’s also concerned about agents appearing on TV because they could be targeted for retaliation by organized crime and other groups.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Scott Roberts