ACLU Calls on Greyhound to Stop Letting Border Patrol Agents Board Buses to 'Racially Profile and Target' People of Color

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on transport giant Greyhound to stop allowing Border Patrol agents to board its buses to "racially profile and target" people of color in a bid to identify undocumented immigrants.

In a letter sent to Greyhound's parent company, FirstGroup plc, the ACLU says that for over a year, it has documented U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents boarding Greyhound buses, with "multiple incidents across the U.S." having resulted in "the harassment and racial profiling of people of color and families—regardless of immigration status."

The practice, the ACLU says, has also led to the "detention and deportation of Greyhound customers," with one high-profile incident in January 2018 being documented in a viral video which showed Border Patrol escorting a woman in her 60s of Caribbean descent off the bus after reportedly going around and asking passengers to present proof of their immigration status.

In an interview with Newsweek, Sylvia Ruiz, the ACLU's deputy director of immigration campaigns, said the organization has repeatedly reached out to Greyhound's leadership to ask it to end the controversial practice to no avail, and is now turning to the company's parent group to take action.

"We believe they are choosing to allow Border Patrol onto their buses to racially profile and target their passengers," Ruiz said. "As a private business, Greyhound has the constitutional fourth amendment right to deny Border Patrol access without probable cause. We believe they have a responsibility to protect customs and urge Greyhound to comply with human rights by requiring a warrant [from Border Patrol agents] to board their buses," she said.

As the ACLU notes in its letter, Title 8 of the U.S. Code outlines immigration officers' powers, including agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, to conduct warrantless searches.

The statute asserts that officers can, within a reasonable distance from the border "board and search for aliens" on "any railway car, aircraft, conveyance or vehicle."

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has mandated that "automobile or no automobile, there must be probable cause for the search."

"Therefore," the ACLU's letter concludes, "CBP must have probable cause to board and search for immigration infractions."

Ruiz said that the ACLU believe FirstGroup plc is currently looking to sell off Greyhound, meaning the company's reputation should matter to its parent.

"We believe that they are attempting to sell the company and as they attempt to sell their company, they should probably put it in the best light for a potential buyer," Ruiz said. "We believe that they can take this step to increase Greyhound's public reputation and lead to a better sale for them."

In many communities, Ruiz said, "Greyhound is the only provider of service, so they really are the mainstay in many communities. We believe they should be as protective of their customer base as possible, and not profit off of misery and the targeting of immigrants."

Ruiz said that the ACLU did not know how many people have been detained as a result of Border Patrol inspections of Greyhound buses, asserting that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency does not maintain that data.

However, she said her organization had seen a "heightened presence of Border Patrol in Greyhound stations and on buses. That's why we're seeing so many more of incidences of this happening."

In their letter, ACLU leaders say that by allowing Border Patrol to board its buses, Greyhound is aligning itself "with the Trump administration's inhumane policies."

"It also exposes your passengers to frequent violations of their constitutional rights to be free of harassment, warrantless searches and seizures, and racial profiling," the letter states.

A Guatemalan family boards aGreyhound bus that they will take to Albuquerqe before their three-day journey through the United States to Philadelphia on January 3, 2019 in Dona Ana, New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Greyhound to stop letting Border Patrol agents board its buses in search of undocumented immigrants. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty