Written Nov. 11, 2018, Updated on bottom, on Dec. 23, 2018.
There hasn’t been a more serious challenge to the free flow of interstate bus travel since authorities betrayed the Freedom Riders in the 1960’s; civil rights activists rode Trailways and Greyhound buses in mixed racial groups with the purpose of breaking up Jim Crow travel laws in the South. Then, as now, the promise of interstate carriers to not discriminate nor allow prejudice of our precious passengers regardless of their race, skin color, national origin, age, gender, or language (accent) is at a crossroads. In particular, there is no federal requirement, nor has there ever been a federal requirement, for a passenger who boards an interstate bus to retain on his person a document that proves citizenship, or permanent residency, or visiting rights to this country.
The only time that an interstate bus operator checks for such type of border crossing documents is if the bus is intended to go through a border crossing. To think, or consider, that a bus, any bus, can be halted and inspected by Customs and Border Patrol agents at any location within 100 miles of the US border which encompasses surface square miles of roughly 22 percent of the nation – and covers the densest populated areas, over 200 million people! – without a specific probable cause of a felony, is outrageous and wrong. These actions must be held to a higher standard and should not be the original intention of the 1953 law that established a 100-mile border zone. ACLU publishes a brief explanation of this law: The Constitution in the 100-Mile Border Zone
This week, a passenger, Ms. Rocio Cordova from California, has filed a lawsuit against Greyhound, also seeking class-action status, with a high profile law office. Ms. Cordova, as plaintiff, accused Greyhound of violating state consumer protection laws barring unfair and unlawful business practices by allegedly consenting to racial profiling by law enforcement officers despite promises not to discriminate on the basis of race, skin color, national origin or language. Córdova said she also suffered economic injury from delays, and the suit seeks a court order barring the alleged practice. Lawsuit targets Greyhound over warrant-less stopping of buses by border agents. Washington Post (Nov. 8, 2018). This lawsuit will be a landmark case. This should not be a politically-charged issue. All interstate bus operators recognize and respect the importance of police protection and law enforcement.
Our union brothers and sisters at ATU 1700 have encouraged their employer to “send an official letter to Department of Homeland Security saying that Greyhound will not consent to agents boarding company buses without probable cause or a warrant, the Fourth Amendment’s legal standard for domestic routes that don’t cross formal check points.” Read more: ATU 1700 Oct. Bulletin Karen Miller, President of Local 1700, says it best: “For us this is about passengers, not politics…management must stand up for constitutional law enforcement that respects all of our customers’ right to travel with dignity.”
UPDATE on DEC. 23, 2018:
Greyhound Bus Lines has re-assessed their liability and position regarding random, unannounced Customs & Border Patrol Agent inspections on their scheduled line runs and have published some new policies and guidance regarding how passengers can respond to these intrusions. Greyhound website “Your Rights” link These newly announced policies which can be read on the Greyhound website are published in this new Washington Post article: