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Sunday, July 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: City Council must adopt “Protecting Passenger Rights For A Safer Spokane”

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

No one should have to travel in fear.

Everyone living in and visiting Spokane should be free to fully participate in the life of the city. Quality of life is what makes for a great city and what makes Spokane a great place to live.

Unwarranted immigration enforcement is negatively impacting our quality of life in a dramatic fashion.

Armed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are routinely boarding Greyhound buses at the Intermodal Center and questioning passengers without informing them that they are free to remain silent. Bus boarding is targeting people of color specifically. Racial profiling increases fear and undermines trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. This practice intimidates travelers, delays drivers, and results in the unreasonable harassment of people of color. Volunteers exercising their right to freedom of speech – distributing information about travelers’ rights – are being evicted from the Intermodal Center. This affects all people living in or visiting Spokane, regardless of citizenship.

The problem is only going to get worse as CBP expands in Spokane.

The city is considering an ordinance called “Protecting Passenger Rights for a Safer Spokane” that would start to address those problems.

The ordinance would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP from accessing nonpublic spaces of city-owned property, including the boarding areas of the Intermodal Center, without a federal judicial warrant.

The fears of impeding criminal investigations are unfounded. If ICE or CBP are investigating human trafficking or other suspected crimes, they can get a search warrant to enter buses and question passengers. However, under previous administrations, CBP had to have “actionable information” to question bus passengers. Under this administration, bus searches are random.

This requirement is nothing new. Law enforcement agents are accustomed to obtaining warrants and the process works. Investigations proceed and people’s rights and freedoms, as well as the integrity of our justice system, are protected.

Travelers should have the same protections from unwarranted searches by federal agents as they have from searches by Spokane police.

Furthermore, the ordinance puts Spokane and its people first.

Spokane should not be allowing its resources to be used to intimidate and harass people for the perfectly legal act of riding a bus. The mere presence of ICE and CBP creates a chilling effect and discourages people from traveling to Spokane. No one should be afraid to ride the bus or scared to use city amenities like the Intermodal Center.

This ordinance allows Spokane to live up to its responsibility of improving the quality of life for everyone in the city, maintaining city-owned resources to serve and protect the people who live here.

If Spokane truly is the “City of Choice,” let’s choose to do the right thing and adopt “Protecting Passenger Rights for a Safer Spokane.”

By Cam Zorrozua, Center For Justice; Paul Dillon, Raiz of Planned Parenthood; Naghmana Sherazi, Spokane Coalition of Color; Doug Huigen, Unitarian Universalist Church; and Enoka Herat, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

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