Border agents board Greyhound bus and arrest immigrant business owner, sparking outrage

"It's important for people to understand that even if Border Patrol or immigration agents approach you, you have a right to remain silent."

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 29: Greyhound and Peter Pan buses are pictured side by side at South Station in Boston on Aug. 29, 2017. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 29: Greyhound and Peter Pan buses are pictured side by side at South Station in Boston on Aug. 29, 2017. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents detained a 33-year-old Trinidad immigrant aboard a Greyhound bus in Florida last Thursday, the advocacy group Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) said, possibly the third immigrant detained at the Ft. Lauderdale bus station in the recent two weeks.

Andrew Anderson was aboard a Greyhound bus from Miami to Ft. Myers — on his way to visit his best friend — when CBP agents interceded the bus on-route at the Ft. Lauderdale bus station. Video footage shared by FLIC shows four border agents arresting an individual next to a Greyhound bus and putting him in the back of a CBP vehicle.

“U.S. Border Patrol agents routinely engage in enforcement operations at transportation hubs within the state Florida,” a CBP official told ThinkProgress in an email Monday.

The CBP official also referred ThinkProgress to a CBP website that outlined the legal authorities of the agency. Under federal law and regulations, immigration officers “without a warrant, may within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States…board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.”

“Reasonable distance” could mean upwards of 100 miles from the U.S. border. That covers the entire state of Florida.

Greyhound told the Miami Herald, “We 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.”

Anderson has lived in the Miami area for 12 years and has no criminal record, FLIC said, during which time he started a business in Miami Beach in the hospitality industry. FLIC spokesperson Melissa Taveras said she was especially concerned for Anderson because he’s a gay man and could face possible deportation if deported back to his native Trinidad. with LGBTQ people in Trinidad and Tobago facing a “high level of violence and abuse” like bullying and both physical and verbal assaults.

For immigrant advocates like Taveras, Anderson’s arrest doesn’t make much sense given that he’s an active community member who not only created a small business, but has also created jobs for other people “who were able to pay taxes because of the jobs they got with him.” Anderson’s employees could be out of a job if he gets deported.

“It’s definitely a domino effect,” Taveras added, noting that Anderson is now being held at the Broward Transitional Center, an immigration detention center in Ft. Lauderdale after being transferred from the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami.

Immigrant advocates were outraged by the latest detention in part because this already happened last week when CBP agents boarded another Greyhound bus to arrest a Jamaican grandmother. The woman — who overstayed her tourist visa and had been visiting her granddaughter — was detained at the Ft. Lauderdale bus station on January 19. Taveras said CBP agents detained a Guyanese man that same day, although there is no photographic or video footage that accompanies that individual’s arrest. Her group still doesn’t know what happened to that man, in part because FLIC has been in better contact with friends and family members of the detained grandmother and Anderson, but not for the Guyanese man.

Taveras is very worried about the arrests in large part because it has already made immigrant communities in Florida fearful about being detained anywhere they go. She’s already heard anecdotes of people too scared to drive to go to work and school through her work with FLIC.

“We work with the entire state so we’re hearing feedback from the entire community,” Taveras said. “What we’re hearing is that people are afraid, they feel harassed, they feel as though they’re under attack. […] Folks are afraid to go to work. Folks are afraid to take their kids to school because they’re afraid of having to run into some sort of law enforcement agency and go through what they’re going through now.”

Given that Anderson was likely the third individual removed from a Greyhound bus in handcuffs in a stateside bus, Taveras said that immigrants should know what their rights are when they board buses.

“It’s important for people to understand that even if Border Patrol or immigration agents approach you, you have a right to remain silent,” Taveras explained. “You literally have a right to say, ‘I wish to remain silent. I wish to have an attorney present.’ That’s your right.”

Taveras further explained that federal agents who approach immigrants at their homes must bring a judicial warrant to enter.

“There are constitutional rights that exist regardless of whether they have documents or not,” Taveras added. “It’s a constitutional right that every human being has…Even if you are approached on a Greyhound bus, you have a right to remain silent and… ask to speak to an attorney.”


UPDATE: In an email sent Wednesday, the CBP agency confirmed that agents had detained a male immigrant who “overstayed his Crewman visa,” which according to the U.S. Department of State, is a type of temporary visa used by people working on board sea vessels or international airlines in the United States. The man was transferred to the ICE Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) “for removal proceedings.”

“Border Patrol agents routinely conduct law enforcement activities at transportation hubs as part of a layered approach to preventing illegal aliens from traveling further into the United States,” the statement read in part. “These operations are conducted at strategic locations that serve as conduits for human and narcotic smuggling, disrupting criminal organizations from further exploiting this mode of transportation.  Enforcement operations at transportation hubs serve as a vital component of the U.S. Border Patrol’s national security efforts.”