SPOKANE, Wash. -On Wednesday morning and afternoon the ACLU of Spokane was handing out pamphlets that said: “Know Your Rights” to passengers boarding Greyhound buses at the bus station in downtown Spokane.
After border patrol officers have been seen across the country boarding domestic buses and trains to question riders about their immigration status "This is in response to increased customs and border protection and border patrol enforcement at this station," said ACLU volunteer Nicole Herrera.
The ACLU says this is all too reminiscent of police states. But what border patrol is doing is not illegal. Part of border patrol's job is to work transportation hubs within 100 miles of the border. Two key court decisions give border patrol the authority to operate checkpoints and to question occupants of vehicles about their citizenship, request document proof of immigration status, and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle.
But the ACLU says geography does not "negate the Fourth Amendment." The fourth amendment states "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
According to border patrol, there were 34 arrests made in 2017 in Spokane. U.S. Border Patrol operations officer Bill Kingsford with the Spokane Sector said that they have been doing these checks for several years.
But the ACLU's target is Greyhound bus lines, and they are urging the company to stop giving border patrol permission to conduct these immigration checks.
Below is a statement from Greyhound Bus Lines and U.S. Border Patrol:
"We can confirm that we’ve received the letter signed by several ACLU affiliates. We understand their concerns and those of our customers with regard to this matter. However, Greyhound is required to comply with the law. We are aware that routine transportation checks not only affect our operations, but our customers’ travel experience, and will continue to do everything legally possible to minimize any negative experiences. Greyhound has opened a dialogue with the Border Patrol to see if there is anything that can be done to balance the enforcement of federal law with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers."
“For decades, the U.S. Border Patrol has been performing enforcement actions away from the immediate border in direct support of border enforcement efforts and as a means of preventing trafficking, smuggling and other criminal organizations from exploiting our public and private transportation infrastructure to travel to the interior of the United States. These operations serve as a vital component of the U.S. Border Patrol’s national security efforts.
Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities and are not limited to a specific geography within the United States. They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence. The Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) and 8 USC 1357 state that Immigration Officers, without a warrant, may "within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States...board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle”. 8 CFR 287 (a)(1) defines reasonable distance as 100 air miles from the border.”