A 36-year-old Mexican national has filed a $75,000 claim for damages against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency alleging he was illegally detained on a bus trip that went through Spokane’s intermodal center last summer.
Andres Sosa Segura is being represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Washington and the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, a nonprofit that has received state funds to advocate and legally act on behalf of immigrant families. The agencies issued a joint news release announcing the tort claim Wednesday, a day after Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart raised legal concerns online about Greyhound allowing Border Patrol agents to question passengers on its coaches traveling through the city-owned property.
“Sosa was singled out by the Border Patrol agents as the only Latinx-appearing passenger on his Greyhound bus on an entirely domestic bus route,” the agencies allege in the news release, using a gender-neutral term to identify Sosa.
Eunice Cho, a staff attorney with the ACLU who is representing Sosa, said the legal action comes amid what the nonprofit sees as increased activity in recent months under President Donald Trump.
“Under the Trump administration, unlawful activity has really been ramping up,” Cho said.
The ACLU and Northwest Immigration Rights Project has taken action against law enforcement in Eastern Washington in the past for what its seen as violation of civil rights. The two groups represented a Mexican national who received a $49,000 settlement from the city of Spokane earlier this year following questions by an officer about his immigration status during a traffic collision.
The Border Patrol declined to comment on the case in an emailed statement Wednesday.
“As a matter of policy, Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” an agency spokesman wrote. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”
The Border Patrol has previously said it doesn’t discriminate in enforcement based on race or ethnicity and has wide jurisdiction within 100 miles of a U.S. border, including the right to warrantless searches, under federal law. A spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the tort claim, which was mailed Wednesday by the state nonprofits to the federal government.
Sosa alleges he was traveling back to his home in Underwood, Washington, from Montana on the morning of July 25 when two agents stopped him disembarking from a coach in downtown Spokane. Sosa had previously been detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and had been released on bond pending “removal proceedings,” according to the tort claim. He was wearing an ankle bracelet, and showed the agents a card that had been given to him by his immigration attorney requesting consultation with a lawyer before answering questions about his citizenship status.
The agents placed him in the back of a van and drove him to a holding facility, threatening him with deportation during the trip, according to the tort claim. He was held there for several hours, where authorities took his fingerprints. He was then returned to the intermodal center, where he was retrieved by his wife who had to drive several hundred miles from their home, according to the tort claim.
Under federal law, a claim must be filed within two years of the incident. The agency has up to six months to respond before a lawsuit can be filed.
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