NEW YORK – In a letter sent today, the New York Civil Liberties Union and nine other state affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union urged Greyhound bus company to stop allowing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to routinely board its buses to question passengers about their citizenship and immigration status. The letter asserts that Greyhound’s cooperation with CBP is not required and facilitates the violation of its passengers’ rights.
“Greyhound should not be in the business of volunteering for the Trump administration’s deportation regime,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The company has a constitutional right to refuse to allow Border Patrol to board its buses without a warrant, and it should exercise that right to protect its customers. There is no excuse for continuing to allow discriminatory, invasive and unnecessary raids on buses in New York and other border states.”
In February, Greyhound issued a statement claiming they were required to comply with law enforcement agencies that asked to board buses or enter stations. The company offered this explanation in response to outrage over viral videos of passengers being questioned and detained on Greyhound buses in Florida. However, the ACLU letter explains that Supreme Court decisions have established that individuals and businesses are protected from searches and seizures conducted without a warrant or probable cause. This includes searches by border agents, regardless of the proximity to the border.
“Without a warrant or the company's consent, Border Patrol has no lawful basis to board and search a private bus," said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the NYCLU. “By giving its consent, Greyhound enables an aggressive police force with a record of disregard for constitutional rights to target its customers and subject them to racial profiling and intrusive questioning."
The NYCLU has long been concerned about rights violations in transportation raids. In 2011, the NYCLU released a report based on three years of data obtained through public records request litigation that examined CBP’s transportation raids on trains and buses in upstate New York. The report revealed that CBP arrests during transportation raids more often apprehended long-time residents rather than recent arrivals, disproportionately targeted people of color, frequently violated the agency’s own arrest regulations, and in numerous cases led to wrongful detentions of individuals who were in compliance with immigration laws.
The Rochester bus station has long been a hotspot for transportation raids. Local advocates with the Rochester Rapid Response Network report that Customs and Border Protection agents are at the Rochester Greyhound/Trailways bus station nearly every day, boarding buses and questioning passengers.
"Border Patrol routinely racially profiles and violates the rights of bus passengers in Rochester. It's hard for me to find a safe way to travel home over the holidays," said Haydi Torres, a University of Rochester student and leader with UR Dreamers, a campus group that promotes immigration awareness and advocacy for undocumented/DACAmented students. "Since my freshman year, I've always relied on classmates and professors to provide a ride for me to go visit my family. It is time for Greyhound, Trailways, and all bus companies to stand up for their passengers and refuse to facilitate this abuse."
The ACLU letter cites examples in several border states that demonstrate an alarming pattern of racial profiling of passengers during transportation raids. In Vermont, in August 2017, Border Patrol prevented passengers from exiting a bus and reportedly checked the citizenship status and identification documents of people who had “accents or were not white.”
Data collected by the ACLU of Michigan showed that 82 percent of people stopped by CBP on buses in Michigan were Latino, and a third of those singled out were U.S. citizens. Following the viral videos of passengers being detained in Florida in January, nineteen members of Congress issued a statement calling CBP’s actions an “abuse of mandate and authority.”
The letter, signed by ACLU affiliates in Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Vermont, and Washington, can be found below.