OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Greyhound lets U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct immigration raids of its mostly Latino customers aboard its buses after they are trapped inside, a woman claims in a class action lawsuit filed Thursday in Oakland.
California resident Rocio Cordova alleges Greyhound Lines voluntarily lets armed and uniformed immigration agents onto its buses to conduct sweeps without a warrant, who target the buses because of the company's "disproportionately" non-white clientele.
Referring to these sweeps as "immigration dumpster-diving," Customs and Border Protection agents "commonly lay in wait until after all the passengers are aboard and trapped within the confines of the bus," blocking aisles and bus doors so passengers can't exit after a raid begins, according to the Alameda County Superior Court complaint.
Greyhound's policy, which Cordova says also gives immigration agents access to the company's private bus station break rooms for questioning passengers, exposes passengers to racial discrimination in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law aimed at businesses that outlaws discrimination.
Nonetheless, she says, "Greyhound continues to throw its own customers under the bus."
After two videos of raids on Greyhound buses shot by passengers went viral on social media early this year; 23 members of Congress sent a letter to Greyhound's chief executive warning the raids constituted "racial profiling" and "harassment," according to Cordova's suit.
One video shows agents detaining a Jamaican woman visiting her granddaughter in the United States while the other shows agents arresting a 12-year-old Miami resident from Trinidad.
"According to Greyhound's website, the company prides itself on 'providing safe, enjoyable and affordable travel to nearly 18 million passengers each year in the United States and Canada,'" the letter reads, according to the complaint. "We do not see how this mission comports with authorizing dragnet CBP [Customs and Border Protection] searches of Greyhound's passengers."
But in a statement Thursday night, Greyhound called on Congress to "change the law" that allows agents to conduct warrantless raids on its buses. It also denied voluntarily allowing agents to board its buses, but said it doesn't stop them so as not to risk the safety of passengers and drivers.
"Greyhound does not coordinate with CBP, nor do we support these actions," the statement reads. "That is why we are calling on Congress to change the law and will support positive efforts to do so."
Cordova is suing on behalf of a class of California passengers after witnessing a November 2017 raid on a bus bound for Phoenix, Arizona from San Diego, California.
While still in California, she says, her bus pulled over, and up to four immigration agents boarded to question passengers. A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient was pulled off the bus and questioned for a half hour before the bus was allowed to continue its journey.
Agents routinely question non-white passengers while leaving white ones alone, she says.
With no indication Greyhound will stop the raids on its own, she seeks an injunction ordering the company to stop them.
"[O]ur client and those like her who choose to ride Greyhound buses deserve to have their dignity and legal rights respected," her attorney, Darren Robbins, said by email Thursday.
Robbins is with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd in San Diego.
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