Greyhound Lines is expanding alerts to passengers about their rights should immigration agents board buses to demand identification and proof of citizenship.
The information includes details on how to file civil rights complaints and ways to support a change to federal law about the warrantless stops.
The advisories come amid the holiday travel season and as the country’s largest motor coach operator and other carriers face an ongoing campaign by civil rights groups, labor unions and Democratic lawmakers to push back against recent expanded checks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
Greyhound posted a guide Dec. 13 on its website under “Travel Info” and a section titled “Your rights & rules on board.” It also has posters with advice set to arrive in bus terminals nationwide, a company spokesman said.
A California woman who is a U.S. citizen has asked a California judge in Oakland to order Greyhound to stop allowing agents to board buses, and her lawyers praised the move by the company to get information to passengers. That lawsuit is proceeding.
“We are pleased that Greyhound has taken a step in the right direction,” Darren J. Robbins, whose San Diego law firm represents Rocío Córdova and her claims on behalf of other passengers in California.
The bus line’s notice in English and Spanish advises customers on a law that allows federal officials to board without a warrant any intercity bus within 100 miles of any international border. The information under a header of “U.S. CBP checks” also advises passengers to contact Congress to change the law, a shift the company has said it would like to see.
The company advises riders that they have “the right to remain silent,” to refuse a search of their belongings and to not answer questions about citizenship or immigration status. They also have the right to refuse signing paperwork without the advice of a lawyer, the company advises.
The notice also advises passengers of their right to record video of immigration officers but cautions that passengers do not have a right to interfere with agents.
Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said the website change and the posters arriving at terminals were issued to provide increased transparency and out of respect for customers’ dignity, privacy and safety.
Booker said the changes followed “open and honest conversations internally as well as with human right groups as we support changes to current legislation.”
She added: Greyhound is “walking a difficult line between complying with the law and best serving its customers. For this reason, implementation of these actions have taken some time.”
The advisory on passenger protections includes telephone numbers for Greyhound customer assistance and the American Civil Liberties Union, directions for how to file civil rights complaints by mail, fax or email to the Border Patrol’s parent department — the Department of Homeland Security — and links to obtain free legal help through the ACLU, other civil liberties groups and the Justice Department.
“The use of race or ethnicity as a factor in conducting stops, searches, inspections, and other law enforcement activities based on the erroneous assumption that a person of one race or ethnicity is more likely to commit a crime than a person of another race or ethnicity is illegal,” the carrier’s notice added.
Greyhound, in an October statement, said it understood customers’ concerns about Border Patrol practices, adding that, while it neither coordinates with nor supports the actions of Border Patrol, it intends to comply with federal law.
“CBP officers do not ask permission to board our buses. We do not want to put our drivers’ safety or the safety of our passengers at risk by attempting to stop a federal agent from conducting checks,” the company said at that time.
In her lawsuit, Córdova said she was traveling from San Diego to Phoenix by Greyhound in November 2017 when her bus was pulled over on a highway to allow federal border officers to interrogate passengers. She asserted Greyhound violated state consumer protection law, which bar unfair and unlawful business practices, by allegedly consenting to racial profiling by law enforcement officers. She also suffered economic injury from delays, the lawsuit says.
In addition to targeting Greyhound, whose 1,600 vehicles move 17 million passengers a year in the United States, Canada and Mexico, critics of the boarding by Border Patrol have also conveyed objections to Amtrak and other bus companies.
In November Motel 6 agreed to pay up to $8.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in federal court that alleged employees at two Phoenix properties provided the personal information of several Latino guests to immigration officials without a warrant, leading to the guests being detained.
The Border Patrol, part of the Customs and Border Protection agency, said its practice of targeting bus stations and other transportation hubs for human smuggling and drug trafficking is decades-old, although the frequency and intensity of the checks has increased in response to rising threats.
Critics of the stops say Greyhound also has a history of upholding its customers’ civil rights, serving most famously as the vehicle for the “Freedom Riders,” who in 1961 traveled on Greyhound buses to challenge racial segregation in public transit in the South.