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Activists Want Immigration Authorities Barred From Greyhound Buses

Attorney Logan Elia, Rose Law Group.
(Photo courtesy of Logan Elia)
Attorney Logan Elia, Rose Law Group.

Activists in Arizona and other states have called on Greyhound Lines, Inc. to stop letting U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents board buses to search for undocumented immigrants, arguing the company has a constitutional right to deny agents access.

Immigration law says agents can — without a warrant — get on some buses to look for undocumented people.

But American Civil Liberties Union affiliates from 10 states sent a letter to Greyhound saying the law does not overrule the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, Greyhound has the right to block agents from its buses.

The letter sets up a legal question with no clear answer, said Logan Elia, attorney with the Scottsdale-based Rose Law Group. 

“The Fourth Amendment protects people against unreasonable search and seizure,” Elia said. “And what constitutes reasonableness is a little bit murky.”

Federal agents can only search buses within a reasonable distance from the border, and combining everything with a series of U.S. Supreme Court interpretations makes it harder to define what’s reasonable, Elia said.

Greyhound released a written statement in response to the letter.

“We can confirm that we’ve received the letter signed by several ACLU affiliates,” the statement says. “We understand their concerns and those of our customers with regard to this matter. However, Greyhound is required to comply with the law. We are aware that routine transportation checks not only affect our operations, but our customers’ travel experience, and will continue to do everything legally possible to minimize any negative experiences. Greyhound has opened a dialogue with the 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.”

The ACLU’s letter to Greyhound cites two incidents that happened in Arizona. One was in Quartzsite, when agents reportedly questioned everyone on the bus traveling from Los Angeles to Phoenix. The other was in Tucson, when agents “singled out four Guatemalan passengers for questioning.”

If agents only question Greyhound passengers who look like they may be undocumented immigrants, the ACLU’s letter may also be setting up a legal claim that agents are racially motivated, Elia said.

“The ACLU very well may bring suit about that,” he said.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.