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Border Patrol Checking Papers of Greyhound Passengers in Florida

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Know Your Rights When Stopped by ICE or Police

A video of Border Patrol agents boarding a Greyhound bus asking people to show them their papers has garnered over 2.5 million views on Facebook according to the Florida Immigration Coalition (FLIC).

Last Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents boarded a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale to question passengers about their immigration papers. “They asked for documentation and it had to be specifically U.S. identification or a passport with a stamp of entrance,” passenger Raquel Quesada told a local CBS affiliate.

Passengers were shocked that their citizenship would be questioned and proof of citizenship was being asked during a routine trip between Florida cities. FLIC shared a video on Twitter (provided by an anonymous passenger) of a Jamaican woman in her 60s, later identified as “Beverly,” who was removed from the bus by Border Patrol agents. She had come to the country legally with a visitor’s visa and had just met her granddaughter for the first time, said her daughter-in-law in a posted statement by FLIC. Additional video here and here shows the grandmother being detained by CBP.

Three days after “Beverly” was arrested by CBP, they turned her over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and she was placed in detention at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach. CBP didn’t even notify her family, and to date, her daughter-in-law has been unable to reach her.

Said Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, Lead Organizer and Membership Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition, in a written statement:

Incidents like these erode public trust in police and authority figures whose job is to serve and protect our communities. Without an official judicial warrant, Border Patrol agents should not be permitted to board the private property of the Greyhound corporation to harass its customers and violate their civil liberties.

She also called for opposition against the anti-immigrant Florida House Bill 9, which has passed in the state House but not the Senate. “HB 9 would mandate that all state and municipal employees collaborate with immigration officials in racial profiling and deportation operations like this one.”

Wrote Fabiola Santiago in a Miami Herald column entitled, “Trump said he’d round up ‘bad hombres.’ How did a Jamaican grandma get on that list?”:

This scenario is a far cry from President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to rid the nation of “bad hombres” who commit serious crimes…

With the full backing of the White House, the Republican Congress and states like Florida led by anti-immigrant Republicans, Trump’s minions are going after the lowest-hanging fruit in the nation, the easy grab.

Border Patrol and the 100-mile zone

Most Americans are unaware that two-thirds of the U.S. population – about 200 million people –  live within the 100-mile border zone where Border Patrol is authorized to conduct enforcement operations, according to the ACLU. The government’s 100-mile border zone reaches far beyond the border along Mexico and Canada and affects the vast majority of unsuspecting Americans. It’s a staggering fact to consider the 100-mile border zone encompasses almost entirely the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — along with the most populated parts of many others, including California and Illinois.

Anybody in this zone — at any time — could face harassment from Border Patrol if the agency continues to demand proof of citizenship from residents and visitors engaging in everyday activities.

In response to Beverly’s case, CBP issued this statement:

FACT: Immigration law states that Immigration Officers, without a warrant, may ‘within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the U.S. … board and search for aliens in any vessel, rail car, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.’

There are some limits to what CBP can do in this zone, but the ACLU says these limits are often not followed:

In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse. Thus, although the 100-mile border zone is not literally ‘Constitution free,’ the U.S. government frequently acts like it is.

Detaining immigrants on Greyhound buses or Amtrak trains is nothing new for Border Patrol. For years, immigrant rights advocates have raised concerns about Border Patrol arrests:

All immigrant detentions carry heightened risk under the Trump Administration, which has been mass-deporting immigrants regardless of their lack of criminal history or circumstances.

Know your rights

There is, however, important information that immigrants should know in order to protect themselves:

  • Everyone has a right to photograph police and Border Patrol in public spaces. Enforcement officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant, and may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
  • Border Patrol agents cannot pull anyone over without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime.
  • Border Patrol agents cannot conduct vehicle searches without a warrant or probable cause. Agents may request consent to search your vehicle, but you are not required to allow them.
  • Border Patrol agents are not allowed to racially profile individuals whom they suspect may be in the U.S. without documentation.
  • If a Border Patrol agent asks for your ID, you have a right to refuse. You may ask if you are free to go. The only way they can say no is if you are being arrested. For that, they need probable cause.

If you’re documented and don’t have any warrants, the time to think about whether and how you’d refuse to comply with such requests is now,” tweeted Angus Johnston, a City University of New York professor, whose Twitter thread went viral when he sought to teach important lessons about Border Patrol checkpoints. “The roundups are getting worse. The checkpoints are getting worse. The harassment is getting worse. The things we were worried would happen are happening.”

Johnston urged others to prepare, strategize, and emphasized the importance of the Fourth Amendment which guarantees the constitutional right to live free of “unreasonable searches and seizures.”