Greyhound to stop allowing immigration checks on buses

Greyhound gives free tickets to runaways looking to go home

SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) — Greyhound, the nation’s largest bus company, says it will stop allowing Border Patrol agents without a warrant to board its buses to conduct routine immigration checks.

The company announced the change Friday, one week after The Associated Press reported on a leaked Border Patrol memo confirming that agents can’t board private buses without the consent of the bus company.

RELATED: AP Exclusive: Agency memo contradicts Greyhound on bus raids

Greyhound had previously insisted that even though it didn’t like the immigration checks, it had no choice under federal law but to allow them.

In an emailed statement, the company said it would notify the Department of Homeland Security that it does not consent to unwarranted searches on its buses or in areas of terminals that are not open to the general public. It said it would provide its drivers and bus station employees updated training regarding the new policy, and that it would place stickers on all its buses clearly stating that it does not consent to the searches.

Greyhound has faced pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, immigrant rights activists and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to stop allowing sweeps on buses within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of an international border or coastline.

They say the practice is intimidating and discriminatory and has become more common under President Donald Trump. Border Patrol arrests videotaped by other passengers have sparked criticism, and Greyhound faces a lawsuit in California alleging that it violated consumer protection laws by facilitating raids.

Some other bus companies, including Jefferson Lines, which operates in 14 states, and MTRWestern, which operates in the Pacific Northwest, have made clear that they do not consent to agents boarding buses.

The memo obtained by the AP was dated Jan. 28, addressed to all chief patrol agents and signed by then-Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost just before she retired. It confirms the legal position that Greyhound’s critics have taken: that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prevents agents from boarding buses and questioning passengers without a warrant or the consent of the company.

“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. An agent’s actions while on the bus “would not cause a reasonable person to believe that he or she is unable to terminate the encounter with the agent.”

One case that has garnered significant attention involved an Oregon-based comedian being stopped by CBP at Spokane’s Intermodel Center. The presence of CPB officers at the Intermodal Center has been a divisive issue in Spokane politics in recent years.

Mohanad Elsheiky is a Libyan national who received asylum in the U.S. in 2017. He recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government because of the stop.

The lawsuit says Elshieky provided two forms of identification, including his Oregon driver’s license and his employment authorization document. He says CBP officers still took him off the bus and detained him. He says the officers told him that “illegals fake these [documents] all the time and use them.”

Elshieky says he was unlawfully restrained and “deeply disturbed that agents of the United States government refused to acknowledge immigration documents” and that he “desperately feared he would be deported back to Libya.”

The lawsuit further alleges that after 20 minutes, “CBP agents eventually whispered amongst themselves and ultimately decided that they would ‘let him go this time’ implying they were doing him a favor.”

His claim says that the night of the incident, CBP officers were moving through the bus, questioning people, even though the bus was on a domestic route with no international border crossings planned. He says two other people, appearing to be of Hispanic descent, were also questioned.

Elshieky says the incident left him with “lasting emotional trauma” and nightmares that continue today.

His suit against the government includes claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and violation of his civil rights.

RELATED: Comedian questioned by CBP in Spokane files federal lawsuit against U.S. government

READ: ACLU asks Greyhound to stop giving Border Patrol permission to conduct bus raids