MONTPELIER, Vt.—The ACLU of Vermont and nine other ACLU affiliates have sent a letter to Greyhound Lines Inc. urging the company to change its policies and refuse US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) permission to conduct raids on buses without warrants. With Greyhound’s agreement, CBP agents have routinely staged surprise boardings to question riders about their citizenship and travel plans, in many cases demanding to see passengers’ “documents.” CBP has said that agents do not need warrants if they are within 100 miles of international borders.

“Border Patrol’s 100-mile zone includes almost the entirety of the state of Vermont,” said ACLU of Vermont executive director James Lyall. “We reject CBP’s assertion that they can make our state a constitution-free zone. Geography does not negate Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure, it does not allow Border Patrol to target Vermonters of color for harassment, and it does not absolve Greyhound of its complicity in violating the rights of its passengers.”

Examples of interrogations and searches by CBP agents have come from across the country.

  • In Vermont, a bus arriving at 2 a.m. in White River Junction was boarded by agents. “They wouldn’t let us get off,” a witness told the Valley News newspaper, adding that the agents “only checked the IDs of people who had accents or were not white.”
  • In California, CBP stopped a Los Angeles resident in Indio without any stated reason as he boarded a bus except that his “shoes looked suspicious,” like someone who had recently crossed the border. The man was detained to the point that he missed his bus. — In another instance, a CBP agent demanded that a Latino U.S. citizen who was filming a raid show two forms of identification.
  • In Washington, a father and son were arrested, even though the son had DACA status and the father gave no information about his immigration status. The agent interrogating them without a warrant asked, “Are you illegal” and “Do you have your documents on you.”
  • In Michigan, CBP agents boarded a bus bound for New York and detained every passenger who did not have in their possession proof of lawful status.

Greyhound issued a statement earlier this year saying the company was “required” to cooperate with “enforcement agencies if they ask to board our buses.” But the ACLU disagrees, citing in its letter court decisions stemming from the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, saying that the company may deny CBP permission to interrogate passengers aboard a bus without warrants or probable cause.

“Greyhound is in the business of transporting its passengers safely from place to place,” said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU Foundations of California. “It should not be in the business of subjecting its passengers to intimidating interrogations, suspicionless searches, warrantless arrests and the threat of deportation.”

The ACLU advises passengers that they have the right to remain silent and refuse searches when confronted by government agents who do not have warrants. They also have the right to record video of the incidents, though there are reports of agents threatening people taking video of the raids.

Full text of the ACLU letter sent to Greyhound, signed by ACLU affiliates in California, Texas, Washington, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Maine: