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TV camera crew present at migrant worker arrest, border agency confirms

Several migrant workers were arrested yesterday at a Vancouver construction site after being found to be working without proper documentation, and a camera crew for the documentary television series "Border Security" was present at the arrests, the Canadian Border Services Agency confirmed late this afternoon.

"Border Security" is a TV series that follows "the regular day-to-day duties" of the agency, a spokeswoman wrote in a statement sent to The Tyee.

While the agency stated that just one site was raided, advocates had earlier suggested that a number of other construction sites were involved.

Border agents initially went to the construction site with the intention of locating "a previously deported person with a significant criminal history," the spokeswoman wrote. They then found other undocumented workers at the site.

Due to the Privacy Act, CBSA would provide no further details on the status of the arrested workers.

The agency said it has established "clear practices" with the producers of the television show, which airs on National Geographic, "to ensure the safety, security and privacy of those with which the Agency interacts with as well as of CBSA employees, the general public and the television crew on site."

"Most filming is done at a distance and employees are only identified by their first name," the statement from the agency reads.

"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."

A group of ralliers gathered over the lunch hour in downtown Vancouver at 300 West Georgia today, outside of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada's office, to protest the arrests.

Harsha Walia of the migrant justice group No One Is Illegal, who had been in contact with families of the workers, said at the rally that some were being held at the office.

Diana Hernandez, who said her husband Tulio Renan Avilés Hernandez from Honduras was detained, was so overcome with emotion at the rally that it seemed difficult for her to speak through the tears.

She said that her husband did not have the proper work permit but that she was working on attaining a sponsorship.

"He is working to support our family; he tried to do everything correct," she said.

Angela Joseph, also the partner of one of the workers, said she was there to show support for her husband and for the other families involved. She has two children, ages two and seven.

"Immigration services needs to be more lenient on families to keep them together," she said.

Byron Cruz, a migrant worker advocate with Sanctuary Health, was also present at the rally and said he was in contact with the workers and their families.

"Most of the guys who were working there last night and who were able to escape from this, they stayed as a group last night and they were unable to sleep because they were so afraid," he told The Tyee over the phone this morning.

Carly Rhianna Smith is completing a practicum at The Tyee. With files from Robyn Smith.

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