CBP Memo Confirms Bus Drivers Have A Right To Deny Agents Permission To Search Buses And Passengers

from the Greyhound-rings-in-with-the-loudest-of-'no-comments' dept

Customs and Border Protection has confirmed that its agents can't legally do one of things they've been doing pretty regularly. Under Trump, the CBP has stepped up its sweeps of mass transportation, targeting buses operated by Greyhound and others.

These searches are happening as far inland as the law allows, up to 100 miles from any border (and, technically, any international airport). This isn't just happening near the southern border. Travelers in New York and Maine have reported being questioned and otherwise harassed by CBP agents, who have been given permission to search buses by drivers.

According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, CBP does not actually have the legal authority to conduct sweeps of public transportation.

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.”

Sadly, this means one person's consent trumps the rights of every person on the bus. And this memo conflicts with statements made both by the CBP and representatives for Greyhound, the latter of which have routinely insisted they have no right to deny CBP access to buses.

Border Patrol officials claim they always ask for consent from drivers. Even if this is true (and it probably isn't), there's little to indicate the actions taken by agents once on a bus would make it clear to passengers that any questioning or searches are optional.

Last year, Greyhound said it could not refuse entry to federal officers. Spokespeople went so far as to suggest people (like ACLU reps) saying it did have a choice were being "false and tendentious." Well, it's now clear who's going to be false and tendentious if bus drivers continue to let the CBP search their vehicles (and their vehicles' occupants). The company already seems to be stepping out on the "false" limb, insisting it has always been opposed to the sweeps it has never opposed:

Greyhound said that it appreciated the Border Patrol “clarifying” its policy. “We were unaware of USBP’s memo clarifying their practices regarding transportation and bus check operations,” the company said. “We are pleased there appears to be greater context about these practices as we have publicly stated we do not consent to these searches and maintain that position.”

To reverse this, Greyhound needs to make an affirmative statement that it categorically does not consent to bus searches and post signage that allows the company to speak for its drivers when drivers might feel pressured by federal agents to ignore company policy.

So far, Greyhound has done nothing to make it clear its anti-sweep. Jeremy Stahl of Slate tried to get a direct answer from the company and got some runaround and deflection instead.

When I asked Tricia Martinez on Friday if she maintained the legal position that “Greyhound cannot deny Customs and Border Protection (CBP) access to its buses,” she told me, “I’m maintaining the position that you need to call our communications specialist.”

Greyhound’s communications specialist informed Slate that “[t]he company will not be providing any statements at this time.” Greyhound is being sued in California by a U.S. citizen for allegedly allowing CBP to racially profile its passengers.

Despite the use of Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection officers, this tactic sometimes doesn't seem to have much to do with patrolling and protecting borders. The AP reports arrests in Spokane, Washington area (nearly 100 miles from the Canadian border) more than doubled from 2017 to 2019, despite the fact no Greyhound lines operating from that terminal cross international borders. A recent experience related by comedian Mohanad Elshieky detailed the CBP's boarding of his bus in Spokane -- one that culminated in agents unilaterally declaring he was in country illegally despite verifying both his work permit and license were valid.

Until Greyhound joins other bus lines in denouncing CBP sweeps and promising to protect their customers from suspicionless searches, the agency will continue to target these passengers. If you want your rights asserted on your behalf, you're better off with a competitor.

Filed Under: 4th amendment, buses, cbp
Companies: greyhound


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Feb 2020 @ 4:07am

    Well gee why would a corporation that transports lots of people around the country want to piss off CBP??
    I mean its not like there are stories about border agents taking peoples cars apart & leaving them in pieces to prove they are in charge.... er wait.

    Imagine how politely CBP agents would treat any company that would refuse them what they wanted, legal or not??

    I mean they leave sick kids alone in cages to die, lie about checking on them, edit the video and I haven't heard about any charges yet. They rape migrants, heck they even hired a couple serial killers...

    Yep, they totes would accept someone standing up for the rights of citizens to not be forced to provide their papers when the nice men in the brown uniforms demand to see them & make sure everyone is wearing the right identifiers on their clothes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Winston, 20 Feb 2020 @ 4:59am

    Meanwhile, back on the plane wid gold plumbing

    No sanity in this world.

    Slippery Slopesville!! Next stop, barb city

    Travel in armed groups with guides and guards as did travelers of only 150 years ago.

    And they call it freedom.

    Time to push back, cuz no relief from pretenders and knee benders

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 5:46am

    Greyhound not the bad guy

    "Until Greyhound joins other bus lines in denouncing CBP sweeps and promising to protect their customers from suspicionless searches, the agency will continue to target these passengers.''

    '

    Oh, right -- it's totally up to private transportation companies to make the Federal Government obey the 4th Amendment & Constitution ???

    Instead of hammering Greyhound -- demand that the current CBP Chief cease all illegal searches & and indict all CBP personnel who have previously committed such criminal actions.

    (of course your noble US Congressmen are totally silent on this issue -- don't expect any help from them)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 5:50am

    "consent"

    "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"

    And of course they are never going to use the "or we are going to detain/arrest/ beat you" style of intimidation to force the bus driver's consent, are they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 20 Feb 2020 @ 7:53am

      Re: "consent"

      unfortunately, "one of the company's employees" includes the drivers who are being pressured by the CBP agents during these stops.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 8:34am

      Re: "consent"

      ...the bus driver or Greyhound CEO cannot speak for the passengers in granting "Consent" to the CBP agents actions.

      The CBP agents are (in legal 4A terms) conducting a "seizure" of the bus and passengers, without any probable-cause.
      That is blatantly unconstitutional.

      Armed CBP agents are also selectively demanding passengers show personal identification documents -- also illegal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Feb 2020 @ 8:00am

    I do not give you permission to search or question me

    "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.”"

    Does this mean that even after the bus driver gives the CBP agent permission to 'inspect' the passengers that any passenger can then tell the CBP agent to stick it, and be in the right? I have several doubts about whether the CBP agent would react appropriately to such a rejection, and the phrase 'you might beat the charge, but you cannot beat the ride' comes to mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 2:09pm

      Re: I do not give you permission to search or question me

      Does this mean that even after the bus driver gives the CBP agent permission to 'inspect' the passengers that any passenger can then tell the CBP agent to stick it, and be in the right?

      You might be in the right, at the side of the road, with 100 miles to walk to the nearest town.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      OGquaker, 22 Feb 2020 @ 2:28am

      Re: I do not give you permission to search or question me

      After Florida v. Bostick, i spent a few days coming west on Grayhound. Over the time, i casually informed some of the other passengers that California had removed the word "agriculture" from their border inspection stations, and we would be inspected. The California Officers that walked up the steps of this bus looked, put their tail between their legs and went back out. I have no idea what was looking back at them, we were all facing forward.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 20 Feb 2020 @ 8:13am

    The 100 Miles Covers a _Lot_ of Ground

    There are whole states which have not the first spade-full of dirt over 100 miles from the ocean. That is an international border recognized by the U.S. Govt.

    If I understand the 100-mile rationale, then, there are whole states where the US 4th Amendment does not apply. Surely there will be some push-back on that, if only from a few individual travelers telling the brown-shirts to sod off and come back with a warrant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      teka, 20 Feb 2020 @ 8:42am

      Re: The 100 Miles Covers a _Lot_ of Ground

      That sounds like criminal talk. we better seize all your electronics, car and anything else we want and keep them for inspection indefinitely. You can complain when you get out of the hospital for injuries you sustained while assaulting our fists with your face and damaging our uniforms with your blood.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 8:44am

      Re: The 100 Miles

      the 4th Amendment contains no "Border Exception" clause nor 100-mile rule.

      of course, the 4th Amendment effectively died long, long ago

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 22 Feb 2020 @ 2:47am

        Re: Re: The 100 Miles

        On a Greyhound bus trip in 1967, when we arrived in the Bakersfield station, officers boarded and removed all suspected Mexicans. The rest of us continued our ride north after raiding the vending machines that night, over 200 miles from the US southern border.
        Ten years ago California produced 90% of the nation's grapes, over 80% of the strawberries, 70% of US lettuce, 50% of the tomatoes, most of the almonds, more rice than any state but Arkansas, more cotton than any state but Texas & more milk and cheese than any other state, and was 3ed in potato production. Has anyone you know grown any food since 2010?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2020 @ 10:48pm

    I sure hope president Trump gets a law passed to patch that loophole! We really need tough smart action on illegal job poaching!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AROGSiriffic, 22 Feb 2020 @ 12:01pm

    I boarded a Greyhound bus in Madison, WI, hoping to cross into Minnesota in 2002, while wearing a checked Palestinian scarf, after being active in the case of Chai Soua Vang, a Hmong hunter framed as a murderer in that location, and going back north, was kicked off the Greyhound bus in the middle of a frigid winter, by a black bus driver.

    The irony meter broke, for me, that night, forever.

    Fuck America, every last stupid, conformist racist bit of it, and its ADLification, forever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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