‘Their first stop is the welfare office’: Bid to improve service access for illegal workers sparks furious Toronto council debate
Natalie Alcoba | Feb 22, 2013 4:04 AM ET | Last Updated: Feb 22, 2013 11:27 AM ET
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A bid to ensure undocumented workers can access city services without fear of repercussions set off a passionate debate at city council on Thursday, with the son of an immigrant saying people who are in the country illegally are an “insult” to those who gained admittance through legal channels.
“Undocumented workers are illegal workers, illegal immigrants,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who represents Don Valley East. “Their first stop is the welfare office. They already know the address because they’ve been told back home where to go.”
The city should neither help nor encourage these people to stay, argued Mr. Minnan-Wong, who asked city council to support the federal government’s approach to legal immigration, and endorse deporting people who are in the country illegally.
“They are an insult to every immigrant who played by the rules to get into this country,” he said. “It sends a message to the world that it is OK to break the law to come to Canada, and it says that the city of Toronto is an accomplice to this lawbreaking.”
Councillor Joe Mihevc claimed Thursday was a “historic moment” for Toronto. “We are saying we are a sanctuary city.”
It’s not clear how many people are living in the city without legal status. “They are not criminals, they are working and they are working hard,” said Councillor Cesar Palacio, who emigrated from Ecuador, and pleaded with his colleagues to keep “our hearts open.”
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