Many people have been reaching out with questions and concerns surrounding a recent Council vote that saw the City adopt an Access Without Fear policy. Some have seen the phrase “sanctuary city” in the media to describe this policy, and have expressed concerns based on their knowledge of that phrase in an American context. I would like to first clarify that “sanctuary city” is not our language, and it does not reflect what this policy means. Access Without Fear policy does not direct or contradict law enforcement; it has no bearing on law enforcement whatsoever.
The policy simply affords people with precarious immigration statuses the ability to apply for a Low Income Bus Pass or a Leisure Access Pass without having to produce current government identification. In practice, it means that they can use a utility bill to prove their identity rather than requiring a driver’s license. This will be of benefit not only to undocumented Edmontonians, but to our homeless population and those with precarious living situations that may not always have government identification.
Most Edmontonians with precarious or undocumented status were invited to be here via programs like the Temporary Foreign Workers program and are currently on a path to completing their documented status. Others are refugees waiting for their hearings. Many of these people have already built their lives here via legal means, paid taxes, raised children, and contributed to society. Many are awaiting news on pending applications for permanent residency and citizenship, which can take years. If we do not allow them to have driver’s licenses, and we also do not let them access the bus affordably, then how do we expect them to get to their immigration lawyer’s office, or to their immigration hearing? This policy will not cost any new taxpayer dollars, and it will not and cannot circumvent federal authority. It is truly just about offering a lifeline to some of our most vulnerable people, and enshrining into policy the practices that our front-line workers are already employing. It is about human dignity.
Hopefully this clears up any questions you might have. You can read the full policy here.