ACLU affiliates in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire joined six other affiliates in calling on Greyhound.
The nine affiliated sent a letter to Greyhound Lines Inc. urging the company to change its policies and refuse US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) permission to conduct raids on buses without warrants.
According to the ACLU of Vt., with Greyhound’s agreement, CBP agents have routinely staged surprise boardings to question riders about their citizenship and travel plans, in many cases demanding to see passengers’ “documents.”
CBP has said that agents do not need warrants if they are within 100 miles of international borders.
James Lyall, ACLU of Vermont executive director says Border Patrol’s 100-mile zone includes almost the entirety of the state of Vermont.
“We reject CBP’s assertion that they can make our state a constitution-free zone. Geography does not negate Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure, it does not allow Border Patrol to target Vermonters of color for harassment, and it does not absolve Greyhound of its complicity in violating the rights of its passengers,” said Lyall.
In a media release, ACLU of Vermont listed examples of interrogations and searches by CBP agents have come from across the country.
- In Vermont, a bus arriving at 2 a.m. in White River Junction was boarded by agents. “They wouldn’t let us get off,” a witness told the Valley News newspaper, adding that the agents “only checked the IDs of people who had accents or were not white.”
- In California, CBP stopped a Los Angeles resident in Indio without any stated reason as he boarded a bus except that his “shoes looked suspicious,” like someone who had recently crossed the border. The man was detained to the point that he missed his bus. In another instance, a CBP agent demanded that a Latino U.S. citizen who was filming a raid show two forms of identification.
- In Washington, a father and son were arrested, even though the son had DACA status and the father gave no information about his immigration status. The agent interrogating them without a warrant asked, “Are you illegal” and “Do you have your documents on you.”
- In Michigan, CBP agents boarded a bus bound for New York and detained every passenger who did not have in their possession proof of lawful status.
Greyhound issued a statement earlier this year saying the company was “required” to cooperate with “enforcement agencies if they ask to board our buses.”
However, the ACLU disagrees, citing in its letter court decisions stemming from the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, saying that the company may deny CBP permission to interrogate passengers aboard a bus without warrants or probable cause.
The ACLU says passengers have the right to remain silent and refuse searches when confronted by government agents who do not have warrants. They also have the right to record video of the incidents, though there are reports of agents threatening people taking video of the raids.
Full text of the ACLU letter sent to Greyhound, signed by ACLU affiliates in California, Texas, Washington, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Maine: http://bit.ly/2HQmY72