Editor’s note: When it comes to immigration — illegal or otherwise — the American people have a right to be concerned. Each week, Liberty Nation author Kelli Ballard examines a contentious issue related to today’s hottest topic.
One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be the case for immigration control as the Trump administration seeks to make the country safer and protect its borders. Each time legislation is introduced, Democrats and liberals rush to the nearest courthouse to push through another antagonistic lawsuit. Now it appears that Border Patrol agents will be restricted from entering buses and trains near the border without a warrant.
For decades, it’s been the custom of border agents to board buses and trains to check passengers’ identification to make sure they are not trying to enter the country illegally. Greyhound has said it allows agents aboard but does not like the disruption or the way it makes passengers feel uncomfortable. Lately, the transportation company has been pressured by the American Civil Liberties Union, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and immigrant rights activists to stop allowing these sweeps if they take place within 100 miles of an international coastline or border.
FirstGroup PLC, Greyhound’s parent company, responded to the pressure by saying last year, “We are required by federal law to comply with the requests of federal agents. To suggest we have lawful choice in the matter is tendentious and false.”
Obtained by the Associated Press, a memo dated Jan. 28, signed by then-Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost (before she retired), addressed chief patrol agents. It suggested the sweeps could be violating the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment since the agents board the vehicles and question passengers without a warrant. “When transportation checks occur on a bus at non-checkpoint locations, the agent must demonstrate that he or she gained access to the bus with the consent of the company’s owner or one of the company’s employees,” the memo states. However, patrol officials say they do seek the consent of the bus driver, who is an employee, before boarding and questioning.
The memo added more spark to the immigration activists’ campaign. The legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Matt Adams, said, “This puts the pressure on Greyhound. Are you going to stand up and protect your customers, or are you going to collaborate with the government and turn over your passengers to the Border Patrol?”
Andrea Flores, deputy director of policy at the ACLU’s Equality Division, went a step further. “Greyhound must take a firm stance — issue a public statement, add signage to buses and stations, train and empower employees, etc. — to make it abundantly clear that the company as a whole does not consent to these searches,” she stated.
Some bus companies, such as Jefferson Lines, which operates in 14 states, and the Pacific Northwest’s MTRWestern do not consent to agents boarding their buses. Greyhound, so far, is one of the only large transportation companies that does not have stickers on its vehicles or placards for its operators to hand out to Border Patrol agents wishing permission to go aboard.
Washington’s attorney general is seeking legal action. “This memo is consistent with what my office has been saying all along to Greyhound,” Ferguson said. “Unfortunately, Greyhound continues to demonstrate indifference to the legal rights of its customers. If Greyhound refuses to recognize their legal obligations, then we will be forced to take action.”
The Obama era oversaw a cutback on transportation checks starting back in 2011, mostly along the U.S.-Canada border. The Trump administration, though, returned authority for the sweeps to the chief agents in each Border Patrol sector, and they have been on the rise.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.