Does Greyhound Have To Allow Border Patrol To Question Passengers?

Recently, Customs and Border Protection agents have been filmed asking passengers on buses and trains to prove that they are in the country legally.

Ten American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) state affiliates are arguing that Greyhound is neglecting passengers’ rights by allowing Border Patrol agents to search buses up to 100 miles from the border and arrest undocumented immigrants.

Customs and Border Protection agents have been filmed twice in the past few months entering mass transport vehicles and arresting passengers who cannot produce documentation proving they are in the country legally.

The first incident occurred in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where federal agents entered a Greyhound bus and removed a woman after agents asked passengers for documentation proving they were authorized to be in the country. About a week later, Border Patrol personnel were filmed on an Amtrak train, and passengers said the agents asked riders where they were born.

Greyhound claimed after the Florida incident that they are merely complying with legal obligations.

“Many of you have reached out about your concerns of what happened in Fort Lauderdale this weekend. We hear you, and we are listening. We are required to comply with all local, state and federal laws and to cooperate with the relevant enforcement agencies if they ask to board our buses or enter stations,” a statement read.

But the ACLU and its state affiliates say Greyhound’s assertion is not true.

“The starting place is to not give your consent. If Border Patrol then says ‘You know what, we actually don’t even need their consent, we’re going to just do this stuff,’ that would violate the Constitution. But we the public don’t get to have that conversation about whether this is constitutional when Greyhound gives away the game by just saying, ‘We consent, so it’s OK,”’ said Jordan Wells, an attorney for the New York chapter of the ACLU.

Aside from the legal matters, in which Greyhound and the ACLU appear to disagree, the argument could affect Greyhound’s business.

“If I was Greyhound, I would certainly understand that this is a threat to my business, and I would test this and I would say no and take it where it goes,” said Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Aggressive border policing by the CPB has been occurring for years, and federal personnel questioned people at bus stations during former President Barack Obama’s presidency. But with President Donald Trump advocating much harsher treatment of undocumented immigrants and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to act more aggressively, these tactics will contribute to the environment of fear among those who do not have legal permission to be in the country.

While the ACLU says Greyhound doesn’t need to allow CPB onto its buses, border agents, nonetheless, have wide permissions to check individuals’ immigration status. If Greyhound doesn’t want to lose customers, it would be advisable to resist attempts by federal agents to patrol buses.

Beyond financial concerns, it would be beneficial for an already marginalized and fearful undocumented immigrant community if Greyhound did more to protect riders’ rights and allow them to travel without fear of random interrogation.

Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Flickr, Loco Steve

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