According to the Associated Press, Greyhound, the largest bus company in the country, has officially declared that they will no longer be allowing Border Patrol agents without a warrant to conduct routine immigration checks on their buses.
Previously, Greyhound had insisted that they had no choice but to follow federal law in allowing agents to board their buses and conduct checks, but after facing pressure from immigrant’s rights activists, the American Civil Liberties Union and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and after the AP reported on a leaked Border Patrol memo saying that, in fact, Border Patrol agents are not allowed to board private buses without the consent of the bus company, Greyhound has changed their tune about allowing sweeps.
The memo, dated Jan. 28, is addressed to all chief patrol agents and signed by then-Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, who is now retired. It confirms that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prevents agents from boarding buses and questioning passengers without a warrant or permission from the company.
“When transportation checks occur on a bus at non-checkpoint locations, the agent must demonstrate that he or she gained access to the bus with the consent of the company’s owner or one of the company’s employees,” the memo states. An agent’s actions while on the bus “would not cause a reasonable person to believe that he or she is unable to terminate the encounter with the agent.”
From AP News:
In an emailed statement, the company said it would notify the Department of Homeland Security that it does not consent to unwarranted searches on its buses or in areas of terminals that are not open to the public — such as company offices or any areas a person needs a ticket to access.
Greyhound said it would provide its drivers and bus station employees updated training regarding the new policy, and that it would place stickers on all its buses clearly stating that it does not consent to the searches.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our customers and team members, and we are confident these changes will lead to an improved experience for all parties involved,” the statement said.
Greyhound is currently facing a lawsuit in California alleging that it violated consumer protection laws by allowing the raids and arrests on their buses. This came after Greyhound passengers videotaped arrests made during warrantless checks sparking criticism. This new declaration to disallow checks without cause may turn public opinion in the company’s favor.
Deputy director of policy for the ACLU’s Equality Division Andrea Flores said this via email:
“We are pleased to see Greyhound clearly communicate that it does not consent to racial profiling and harassment on its buses. By protecting its customers and employees, Greyhound is sending a message that it prioritizes the communities it serves.”
Ferguson also praised Greyhound for the move and said in an email his office will follow up with the company on the issue.
“Today’s announcement from Greyhound confirms what should have been obvious to the company since I contacted them a year ago – it has both the power and the responsibility to stand up for its customers, who suffered for far too long from Greyhound’s indifference to CBP’s suspicionless bus raids and harassment,” he said.
Greyhound’s new policy is sure to bring relief to millions of immigrants and families who don’t wish to be harassed during their travels.