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Bus line employee falsely told passengers they must be US citizens to ride, company says

Courtesy of Alec Larson
Courtesy of Alec Larson
A Customs and Border Protection agent questioning passengers at the Bangor Transportation Center.

Concord Coach Lines refuted a statement over the weekend made by an employee at the Bangor Transportation Center in late May, who told a bus passenger that only U.S. citizens were allowed to ride the bus.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on Thursday posted to Facebook a video recorded on May 28 by passenger Alec Larson that showed a Customs and Border Protection agent asking about bus riders’ citizenship statuses as they stood waiting to board a Concord Coach bus. Larson, who was taking the bus home to the Boston area, declined to answer the agent’s question.

Concord Coach is throwing passengers under the bus.

Immigration agents are asking bus passengers in Bangor about their citizenship. Watch what happens when the passengers start asking their own questions.

Posted by ACLU of Maine on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Larson and another rider then asked a Concord Coach employee wearing a yellow safety jacket, “Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to take this bus?”

“Yes,” the employee said.

New Hampshire-based Concord Coach Lines said Saturday on its Facebook page that the employee in the video was incorrect, and the bus service has no affiliation with the federal agency.

Concord Coach Lines has no partnership with CBP and US citizenship is not a requirement to use our service. Please see attached for full statement.

Posted by Concord Coach Lines on Saturday, June 16, 2018

“This terminal employee was caught off guard with a question he was unprepared to answer and made a mistake that we share,” the statement said. “On June 1, we communicated with our staff, reiterating and clarifying that we allow anyone and everyone to ride our bus, regardless of citizenship. In practice we have never denied anyone transportation based on citizenship.”

The “vast majority” of times that CBP agents visit Concord Coach Lines facilities, they do so without warning, the statement said. “We support our passengers’ rights to decline to answer questions from the CBP — it will have no bearing on whether we allow them to ride with us or not.”

Multiple immigration status checks have been conducted at the transportation center this year, according to BDN reports. An employee of the transportation center who wished to remain anonymous told the BDN in April that Customs and Border Protection agents visit the transit hub at least every few weeks.

The most recent incident comes at a time when the nation is embroiled in controversy as the Trump administration continues to detain and separate hundreds immigrant children from their families. The White House has yet to cite a constitutional basis for its actions, and politicians across the aisle are calling the tactics unlawful.

The Maine ACLU filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in early May against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, for failing to relinquish information or respond to the Maine ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act request in January. The ACLU’s request for information about citizenship checks around the state was made on Jan. 24, 10 days after CBP agents targeted a Concord Coach Lines bus at the Bangor Transportation Center to inquire about rider’s immigration status.

[Border patrol denies Maine ACLU access to bus citizenship check records]

The recent statement by the bus line’s employee highlights the need for more information, the ACLU said.

“That really confirms to us the importance of getting information on this,” Emma Bond, a staff attorney for the Maine ACLU, said Friday.

The Maine ACLU requested containing descriptions of CBP operations at the Bangor and Portland transportation centers, including dates and times when agents were deployed and the names and ranks of the officers involved. It’s also seeking the number of people questioned, their country of origin, race and ethnicity, and the criminal or immigration charges against those questioned.

In a Monday court filing, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol denied the ACLU’s request for records, saying that it doesn’t owe the ACLU a response over its practice of performing citizenship checks.

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