The ACLU of Maine is demanding that Greyhound Bus lines not let federal Customs and Border Patrol agents to “conduct warrantless raids” aboard its buses.
In a letter to Greyhound CEO Dave Leach, the ACLU branches in Maine and eight other states cite reports from across the nation that the bus company routinely lets federal agents question passengers about whether they are in this country legally.
Zachary Heiden, legal director for ACLU Maine, said he’s concerned that agents single out people “because of the color of their skin or their accent,” which he says would violate their constitutional right to equal protection.
“We’re hoping to prevail upon Greyhound and other bus companies to do the right thing,” he told the BDN, adding in a statement, “This sort of show-me-your-papers policing makes all of us less free.”
Heiden said the ACLU is targeting Greyhound because the Dallas-based company has stated that it is “required” to let federal agents board its buses to question passengers. The ACLU disagrees.
A Greyhound spokeswoman told the BDN on Tuesday that “Greyhound is required to comply with the law.”
Spokeswoman Crystal Booker added that her company “has opened a dialogue” with 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.”
Meanwhile, Heiden said that he suspects border agents are also grilling passengers on other bus lines, he said.
In January, the Maine ACLU said that it had “learned” that border patrol agents had interrogated passengers at the Concord Coach bus station in Bangor. ACLU lawyers then filed a freedom of information request “to learn more about the practice.” As of Wednesday, they had not yet received a response from the federal government.
In its letter to Greyhound, the ACLU highlights news reports or complaints made to its state offices across seven states that allege agents are arresting or unlawfully questioning Greyhound passengers.
According to one California report, “[federal] agents stopped a Los Angeles resident as he boarded a Greyhound bus in Indio to L.A. and detained him without any reasonable suspicion while the agents questioned him about his immigration status, causing him to miss his bus. The agents told him that they stopped him because his ‘shoes looked suspicious,’ like someone who had recently crossed the border.”
The letter to Greyhound was sent by the ACLU branches in Maine, Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Texas, Vermont and Washington.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.