DALLAS (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday asked intercity bus operator Greyhound to stop allowing federal immigration agents to indiscriminately board its buses to illegally interrogate passengers unless they have warrants.
ACLU affiliates in ten states sent a letter to Dallas-based Greyhound, citing an alleged agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to “stage surprise boardings without warrants to question riders about their citizenship” and where they are headed.
“In many cases, all too reminiscent of police states, the agents demand to see a passenger’s ‘documents’,” the ACLU of Texas said in a written statement. “The warrantless raids, which saw a rapid increase in the past year, are not only a blatant disregard of passengers’ constitutional rights, they are also clearly driven by racial profiling.”
It said ACLU volunteers will distribute “Know Your Rights” brochures to passengers in several California Greyhound stations on Friday, informing them they have the right to remain silent, refuse searches without a warrant and record video of the incident.
The ACLU says it disputes Greyhound’s recent statement that it is required to cooperate with CBP if it asks to board buses.
“We are aware of no such requirement. Rather, Greyhound has a Fourth Amendment right to deny CBP permission to board and search its buses without a judicial warrant,” the seven-page letter states. “Reports describe CBP’s practice of boarding Greyhound buses without even any pretense of suspicion and detaining passengers until they answer questions about their citizenship and immigration status and present immigration documentation. CBP often singles out individuals because of the color of their skin or because they have a foreign accent. In a number of reported cases, CBP agents arrested individuals on Greyhound buses without probable cause to believe they were deportable.”
The ACLU’s letter details incidents in seven states involving boardings by CBP agents. It says that in Washington two months ago, a father and son were arrested after being asked if they were illegal or had documentation on them. The ACLU claims at least 34 people were taken in custody last year in the Spokane area alone.
The letter alleges that Greyhound buses in Riverside County in California have been boarded and passengers arrested and questioned for several years.
“In January 2018, news media reported an incident in Indio, California, where CBP agents boarded a Greyhound bus and asked every passenger for their citizenship and immigration status and identification,” the letter states. “When a Latino U.S. citizen eyewitness began filming the incident outside the bus, including CBP’s removal and arrest of one person from the bus, a CBP agent demanded to know the witness’ citizenship and asked him for two forms of identification.”
The letter also cites two videos taken by Florida passengers in January showing agents asking passengers for proof of citizenship.
“The first incident ended with CBP detaining a Jamaican woman, who was in the U.S. to visit her granddaughter, and the second incident with CBP arresting a 12-year Miami resident from Trinidad,” the letter states. “Nineteen members of Congress issued a statement afterwards calling CBP’s actions an ‘abuse of mandate and authority.’”
The ACLU further disagrees with CBP agents and Greyhound saying agents do not need warrants if they are within 100 miles of the borders with Canada or Mexico, saying “geography does not negate” the Fourth Amendment.
“Neither statutes nor regulations can override a business’ Fourth Amendment right to refuse consent to enter a nonpublic areas under its control,” the letter states. “Department of Homeland Security regulations in fact recognize that right.”
A representative of Customs and Border Patrol did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Wednesday afternoon.