Taking the bus now dangerous if you are an immigrant

by Thomas Kennedy | February 7, 2018 7:00 am

The Greyhound bus company is currently in the midst of a public relations disaster due to a series of videos which were released on the internet by the organization I work for, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, depicting immigration raids conducted by Customs and Border Patrol within its buses.

The first video posted show a Jamaican grandmother being detained after Border Patrol agents demanded proof of citizenship from passengers. Another video from the same incident shows the woman under further questioning outside of the bus, while one of the agents is seen calling for back up on his radio. She was eventually transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a for-profit immigration detention center run by the GEO Group in Florida, where she is awaiting deportation.

A second incident is depicted in a video we released shortly after, in which a 33-year-old gay man from Trinidad is seen being put in handcuffs and propped against a wall outside of a stationary Greyhound bus. He is also currently in detention at the for-profit Broward Transitional Center and awaiting deportation.

A new video surfaced today of a raid conducted by Customs and Border Patrol on an Amtrak train.

Customs and Border Patrol claims that these types of immigration raids are within legal scope due to language found in the Immigration and Nationality Act 287 (a) and CFR (a)(3) which states that immigration officers, without a warrant, may “within reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States… board and search for aliens in any vessels within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.

Reasonable distance is interpreted to be 100 miles. States like Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont lie entirely or almost entirely within this category. Roughly 200 million Americans, or two-thirds of the United States’ population live within this zone of extra-jurisdiction for Border Patrol agents.

These raids are nothing new.  Checking buses has been a commonplace practice for Customs and Border agents for years. I used to be formerly undocumented myself, and I have memories from my childhood of my parents being warned against riding these buses due to the possibility of getting caught up in these random searches.

Trump’s relentless attacks against immigrant communities, coupled with widespread social media accessibility and aggressively empowered immigration enforcement agencies, has led to widespread public attention on this issue that in the past has been absent. The videos have been picked up by most mainstream media outlets and have been shared tens of thousands of times on both Facebook and Twitter.

We are calling on Greyhound to do everything in its power to stop these immigration raids. Customs and Border Patrol can arbitrarily board buses without a judicial warrant, with free reign to target immigrants anywhere in Florida. This discriminatory and invasive practice has been denounced by nearly 20 members of Congress since the release of the videos.

 

Unlike twelve other states, Florida restricts access to driver’s licenses for immigrants, leaving families few to no options for mobility, who in turn are not safe from harassment by law enforcement and civil rights violations on Greyhound buses. In 2018, it is outrageous that there is an apartheid-like passbook requirement to travel domestically and Americans should be able to ride a bus or train in peace without having to carry a birth certificate or passport.

It is important to know what your rights are when faced with these intrusive searches:

  • You are not required to answer any questions about your immigration status if you do not wish to do so.
  • You are not required to consent to any search of your belongings.
  • It is your right to remain silent.
  • You can record the interaction.
  • You can tell others they have rights and should use them

Greyhound needs to take serious action to protect their passengers, otherwise it is clear that they value immigrant dollars, but not immigrant lives.

Sign the petition and tell Greyhound to STOP immigration raids on their buses:

https://somos.presente.org/petitions/stop-the-greyhound-immigration-raids?just_launched=true

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