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ACLU to Greyhound: Stop Border Patrol searches on buses

FILE - A Portland-bound Greyhound leaves the Spokane intermodal center in 2004. (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - A Portland-bound Greyhound leaves the Spokane intermodal center in 2004. (Jed Conklin / The Spokesman-Review)

The American Civil Liberties Union says Greyhound should stop allowing border patrol agents to conduct surprise searches and interrogations on buses in Spokane.

Customs and Border Patrol agents have been staging surprise boardings without warrants, questioning individuals on their immigration status and asking for documents, the ACLU said in a recent statement.

This includes several incidents in Spokane, said Enoka Herat, an attorney who handles police practices and immigration rights cases for the ACLU of Washington.

“CBP is routinely boarding Greyhound buses and demanding people’s citizenship status,” she said Monday. “They have authority within 100 air miles (of a border crossing), so Spokane is really in the outer limits of that.”

Spokane is 97 miles by air from the Canadian border, she said.

In 2017, CBP took at least 34 people into custody in Spokane, the ACLU said. The searches affect everyone on the bus and are intrusive and invasive, Herat said.

“You’re not required to carry proof of citizenship with you. But they still ask,” she said. “It’s really intimidating to people. It’s certainly inconvenient.”

There also are concerns that the searches are driven by racial profiling, she said.

Greyhound issued a statement Monday saying they are legally required to comply with laws that allow Border Patrol agents to board a bus if “they believe aliens are being brought illegally into the United States” within 100 air miles of the border. Another law the company cited allows an agent to question and briefly detain someone under a “reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien.”

“Greyhound has opened a dialogue with Border Patrol to see if there’s anything that can be done to balance the enforcement of federal law with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers,” Lanesha Gipson, a senior communications specialist for the company, said in the emailed statement.

Herat contends Greyhound does not need to allow agents on the bus to conduct searches and interrogations.

“Just like individuals, Greyhound has a right to require that the government has a warrant,” she said. “Greyhound is in the business of transporting people from place to place. It shouldn’t subject its paying customers to these suspicious searches, and it doesn’t have to.”

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