Unprecedented post-September 11 access to Canada’s new realities on the frontlines of illegal immigration. What is it like in the post-September 11 world, to be on the frontline, charged with confronting, day and night, those who knock on, or slip under, Canada’s door?
If one could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Immigration and RCMP officers whose job it is to question, evaluate, detain, incarcerate or admit, and see how they do their work in this new painful reality, would one feel safer… or not?
Peter Raymont and Lindalee Tracey, partners in Toronto-based White Pine Pictures, are the only filmmakers or journalists able to arrange exclusive and unprecedented access to the high-voltage world of Canadian Immigration officers and RCMP special task force members, after September 11.
The Undefended Border explores the furious new pace of immigration police work, revealing individual investigators staggering in the blur of competing urgencies. The series pulls back the layers of bureaucracy to reveal the priorities and the police work behind individual cases involving illegals, following their progress through investigation, detention and deportation.
Much has changed in immigration policing since Tracey and Raymont made their acclaimed documentary on Canada’s illegal immigrant population, Invisible Nation, which aired in 1997 on TVO. Enforcement policy is now emphatically anti-criminal, while intelligence gathering has become more centralized. Priorities have become the capture and deportation of criminals; anti-terrorism, and staunching the endless leaking of illegals from, and to, the United States.
Following a handful of Immigration, RCMP and CSIS agents working in the GTA, Ottawa and Fort Erie, The Undefended Border documents the growing tenacity of officers literally under fire; the split-second decisions needed to avert the violence of desperate illegals; the frustration of deporting illegals who keep returning; the territorial posturing of competing units; the frantic whispers for weapons. The camera sees what the investigators see – frightened faces; the dangerous twitch of desperation; cold stares.
There is much less hesitation to remove illegals now; September 11 changed all that.The Undefended Border burrows deep into the criminal underground and into the newly formed enforcement units trying to control it: the Immigration Task Force, the War Crimes Unit, the ‘Failed Refugee’ Program and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. While enforcement officers raid factories and homes searching for benign illegals and failed refugees, there is new urgency to defend against Canada’s reputation as a ‘soft’ country. Post 9/11, America has been loudly critical of Canada’s supposedly lax immigration policing, our ‘leaky’ border. Officers work with increased political pressure to toughen the border and clear out threats to national security.
Shot over six months in the wake of 9/11, The Undefended Border is a highly dramatic, up-close and intimate portrait of the men and women who make up Canada’s first internal line of defense.
Produced by White Pine Pictures in association with TVO, Life Network, CFCF 12, Knowledge Network and ACCESS The Education Station
Part 1: Toughening Up
The series opens by drawing tighter focus on the new realities of post-September 11. Immigration and Customs officials are on high alert to intercept criminals at the border. But in the face of 1,000 or more refugee claimants who arrive each month, how do immigration authorities filter the bad from the good? How do they know for certain that a legitimate claimant doesn’t turn out to be a terrorist? In this episode, immigration officers tell of the new pressures they face as they inspect several cases, including a Turkish military officer and his family seeking refugee status, and a Guyanese mother of two in flight from the U.S. who fears her husband is trying to kill her.
Part 2: Immigration Task Force
The Immigration Task Force was created in 1994 after a Toronto police officer and a cafe patron were shot to death by illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In this film, we learn how Immigration and the RCMP cooperate to ferret out and arrest criminals and target previous deportees who have reentered Canada unlawfully. Since 9/11, their caseload has increased by 50 percent. In this episode, investigators get a tip that a man charged with murder in his native Jamaica has been living in Canada for several years under a false identity. They track him down in a knife-sharpening business.
Part 3: The End of the Line
This episode examines some of the problems of Canada’s immigration system and the issues posed by illegal immigrants. Why can an illegal immigrant with a long rap sheet appeal his deportation order and stay in Canada until it is heard? Appeals can take up to five years to be finally resolved. Enhanced border control and apprehension of illegals are only partial solutions to curbing illegal immigration. The program examines the immigration system’s bureaucratic machinery, and the level of frustration of the officers who must enforce policies and tackle conflicting priorities. It also looks at the apprehension of failed refugee claimants and visa overstays who often go underground while continuing to receive social benefits. (An estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants live underground in Toronto alone), the problem of illegals who make bogus applications for political asylum to avoid deportation, and the apprehension and removal of war criminals.