The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency allegedly detained a woman on Friday after boarding a Greyhound bus in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to ask passengers for their legal documents to prove their citizenship last week, an immigrant advocacy group has claimed.
A video taken by a passenger — and later posted on Twitter by the immigrant advocacy group Florida Immigrant Coalition(FLIC) — appears to show a border agent ask a woman the location of her belongings before taking her off the bus. According to a FLIC press statement, the bus driver told passengers “‘security’ was coming onto the bus for a routine inspection. Instead, Customs and Borer Patrol agents entered and began demanding that the passengers demonstrate proof of citizenship.” The border agent stopped the Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale en route to Miami from Orlando.
.@CustomsBorder got on a Greyhound bus yesterday at 4:30pm in Fort Lauderdale and asked every passenger for their papers and to prove citizenship. Proof of citizenship is NOT required to ride a bus! For more information about your rights, call our hotline👉 1-888-600-5762 pic.twitter.com/rWJn61o8VP
— FLImmigrantCoalition (@FLImmigrant) January 20, 2018
The daughter-in-law of the individual detained said she’s now concerned that her mother-in-law has been detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
“My mother-in-law came to visit me last week,” the woman told FLIC. “She’s my daughter’s grandmother and this was the first time meeting each other. I dropped her off at the Greyhound bus stop Friday morning and never got word of her arrival. I’m very concerned about these officers questioning her without a lawyer present.”
FLIC advocates said the incident could “erode public trust in police and authority figures whose job is to serve and protect our communities.”
“Without an official, judicial warrant border patrol agents should not be permitted to board the private property of the Greyhound corporation to harass its customers with questions transgress their civil liberties,” FLIC wrote in a press statement. “The people of Florida deserve to ride their local bus transportation in peace without having to carry a birth certificate or passport to go to Disney world, visit family, or commute for work.”
“[W]e are required to comply with all local, state and federal laws and cooperate with the relevant enforcement agencies if they ask to board our buses or enter stations,” Lanesha Gipson, the Senior Communications Specialist at Greyhound Lines Inc, wrote in an email to ThinkProgress Monday afternoon. “Unfortunately, even routine transportation checks negatively impact our operations and some customers directly. We encourage anyone with concerns about what happened to reach out directly to these agencies. Greyhound will also reach out to the agencies to see if there is anything we can do on our end to minimize any negative effect of this process.”
How the border agent came to board a Greyhound bus is the result of a decades-old federal regulation, which allows the U.S. government to set up transportation checks to question people about their immigration status within a 100-mile border zone that wraps around the country. That area can be defined by U.S. land or coastal border, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As the below map shows, all of Florida is technically covered in this area. About two-thirds of all Americans, or about 200 million people, live in this zone.
The incident on the Greyhound in Ft. Lauderdale is not an anomaly. Along with other transportation services, the Greyhound Lines agency cooperates with federal agencies that allow border agents to board their transportation services. In mid-January, border agents pulled a father and son off their Greyhound bus in Spokane, Washington. The pair were questioned “are you illegal?,” according to KOMO News. Border agents released the son, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who has temporary deportation relief through the program, but is still detaining the father. In 2005, Greyhound Lines Inc. issued an internal policy threatening to fire employees who sold tickets to undocumented immigrants, the Seattle Times reported at the time.
Encounters like these date back years, but it would appear that border agents may increasingly feel emboldened to detain immigrants for being in the country illegally under the Trump administration. Five days after President Donald Trump took office, the ICE acting director declared his agency “will no longer exempt entire classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” Trump has also given a green light to federal immigration agents to aggressively pursue undocumented immigrants for potential deportation proceedings. According to data provided by the ICE agency and the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, federal agents arrested about 143,470 people for being in the country illegally in the 2017 fiscal year that ended September 30.
Undocumented immigrants who rely on Greyhound as a mode of transportation for long-distance trips may face major challenges since only 12 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that allow them to get driver’s licenses. That problem will be exacerbated beginning January 22, 2018 when the REAL ID Act goes into effect, and residents in states that have not been compliant with REAL ID or haven’t been granted an extension can’t use these identification cards to fly in the United States.
In the video above, watch how communities living near the U.S.-Mexico border are fed up with border patrol’s “military-style” presence.
This story was updated to include an emailed response from Greyhound Lines Inc. on Monday afternoon.