Greyhound Lines Inc. last year finally appeared to admit that it didn”;t have to let border agents conduct warrantless searches of its buses. That came only after years of complaints from civil and immigrant rights organizations–;and after border agents became emboldened under the previous administration. “Happy hunting, stay safe, and have fun,”; NBC News reported one official emailed while setting agents loose back in 2017.
Greyhound”;s decision to let Customs and Border Protection (CBP) harass its customers now also comes with a price tag. On Monday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that the company has agreed to settle a lawsuit over the practice for $2.2 million. “;Ferguson will use the payment to provide restitution to those passengers who were detained, arrested, or deported after immigration agents boarded their bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center, and for partial reimbursement of his office”;s litigation costs,”; his office said.
“;My office first insisted that Greyhound make these corporate reforms in 2019,”; Ferguson said. His office then launched a lawsuit against the company last year. “;If Greyhound had simply accepted our reasonable demand, they would have avoided a lawsuit,”; he continued. “;Now, on the eve of trial, Greyhound”;s evasion has come to an end, and now it must pay $2 million for the harm it caused Washingtonians.”;
Ferguson”;s lawsuit cited numerous examples of travelers harassed by warrantless agents, including a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient traveling with his dad back in 2018 and a stand-up comic returning home from a gig the following year. Mohanad Elshieky, an asylee originally from Libya, was accused by agents of faking his documents. Agents have even harassed passengers about their immigration status because their “;shoes looked suspicious,”; American Civil Liberties Union affiliates have said.
Border Patrol has always felt in the right to harass passengers, citing an “;obscure law”; that they believe gives them the right to demand to see the papers of anyone within 100 miles of a border. Greyhound had long said the company had to cooperate with warrantless searches until the Associated Press last year reported on an internal CBP memo that stated otherwise. Greyhound”;s public stance then appeared to change, but actually didn”;t, Ferguson”;s office said.
“;Despite its public statements, Greyhound continued to refuse to provide adequate notice to its customers about the risk that they will be subjected to warrantless and suspicionless searches. Greyhound continued to wrongly argue that the company had no choice but to allow federal immigration officials to board its buses and conduct the sweeps, even though the company has long been aware that CPB”;s own materials contradict their position.”;
Ferguson”;s office said that under the settlement, Greyhound must “;[c]reate a clear corporate policy that denies CBP agents permission to board its buses without warrants or reasonable suspicion in the State of Washington,”; train drivers on communicating this to agents (their training is a whole different issue, but keep reading), “;[p]rovide placards for its drivers to give to immigration agents stating that Greyhound does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses to conduct warrantless or suspicionless searches,”; a complaint procedure for harassed customers, and notification of these complaints to the attorney general”;s office. His office is also putting out a call for other customers harass by border agents:
If you or a family member were detained, arrested or deported after immigration agents boarded your Greyhound bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center, please contact us at 1-833-660-4877, and choose option 8 from the main menu, or by email at Greyhound@atg.wa.gov, to submit a claim.
–; Washington State Attorney General (@AGOWA) September 27, 2021
“;Greyhound has an obligation to its customers–;an obligation it cannot set aside so immigration agents can go on fishing expeditions aboard its buses,”; Ferguson continued. But Greyhound”;s customers can”;t be harassed without help. There needs to be accountability when it comes to border agents, who in just a handful of examples have harassed Latinas grocery shopping and Iranian Americans returning from a concert, and more recently abused Haitian asylum-seekers and migrants at the southern border. Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said in response that the administration will halt the use of horses, but that”;s a superficial fix because it’s the agents and their toxic, violent, and lawless culture that are the root of the problem.
“;This is a moment to hold DHS accountable for atrocities that have been happening for decades at this point,”; UndocuBlack Network policy and advocacy director Breanne J. Palmer told The Grio. The organization filed a complaint against the Biden administration over Haitian abuses alongside African Communities Together, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and Haitian Bridge Alliance. “;The photos that we are seeing are one example of the horrendous mistreatment that all immigrants face, but especially Black immigrants in custody.”;
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