For years, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents have climbed onto Greyhound buses at the station in Spokane and demanded that passengers prove they are in the country legally.
"Where's your papers?"
"Are you illegal?"
"Do you have your documents on you?" the agents ask.
The warrantless sweeps by armed agents are "business as usual," Border Patrol spokesman Jason Givens told the Inlander
last November, and now the ACLU has taken notice.
In a letter to Greyhound Lines Inc. (embedded below), the ACLU asks the bus company to stop allowing Border Patrol agents to board its buses and question passengers without warrants.
"These invasive raids are not only a blatant disregard of passengers' constitutional rights, they are also clearly driven by racial profiling," Enoka Herat, ACLU of Washington Police Practices and Immigrant Rights counsel says in a statement.
In an emailed statement, Greyhound says it has received the ACLU's letter and will "do everything legally possible to minimize any negative experiences" of its passengers.
"Greyhound has opened a dialogue with the Border Patrol to see if there is anything that can be done to balance the enforcement of federal law with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers," the statement reads.
Givens, the Border Patrol spokesman, was responding last year to concerns raised by local immigration attorneys, who had noticed a shift in immigration enforcement priorities following President Trump's election.
Rather than focus on undocumented people accused or convicted of crimes, attorneys said, it appeared as if agents were going after everyone — even people like Manel Perdomo
, who was on her way home from Seattle and was still recovering from a recent stroke.
Other similar examples then began to surface, including news earlier this year
of a father and son, who was a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Both were arrested from the bus station in Spokane and sent to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
In 2017, at least 34 people were arrested from buses in the Spokane area, according to stats provided by the ACLU. The ACLU letter cites other examples from California to Vermont.
Border Patrol has argued that it has unique legal authority to conduct warrantless searches within 100 miles of U.S. borders. Spokane falls just inside that range, effectively making its Greyhound bus station a de facto checkpoint.
But the 100-mile rule doesn't mean agents can board buses without warrants, the ACLU letter says.
"They still have to have a reason to ask someone for their papers," says Nicole Herrera, an attorney and one of the ACLU volunteers passing out "Know Your Rights" cards at the Spokane Greyhound station Wednesday afternoon.
The volunteers' presence is in direct response to the Border Patrol arrests, she adds. "The racial profiling undertones of this are scary."
Herrera encourages all Greyhound passengers to refuse to answer questions from Border Patrol. "You can't arrest someone for exercising their right to remain silent," she says.
ACLU Affiliate Letter to Greyhound - FINAL by Mitch Ryals on Scribd