Greyhound Lines will no longer allow Border Patrol agents to conduct immigration checks on its buses without warrants, the company announced on Friday — one week after a leaked government memo revealed that agents could not board buses without consent.
The memo appeared to take Greyhound by surprise. For years, the company, the largest operator of intercity buses in America, had been allowing border agents to board its vehicles without warrants, citing a law that it said it didn’t agree with.
“C.B.P. searches have negatively impacted both our customers and our operations,” the company said in 2018, referring to Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency. “Greyhound does not coordinate with C.B.P., nor do we support these actions.”
But in the leaked memo, which was first reported by The Associated Press, the Border Patrol chief confirmed that agents were prohibited from boarding buses and questioning passengers without warrants or the company’s consent.
“When transportation checks occur on a bus at non-checkpoint locations, the agent must demonstrate that he or she gained access to the bus with the consent of the company’s owner or one of the company’s employees,” Chief Carla Provost wrote in the memo, which was dated Jan. 28.
As part of President Trump’s drive to crack down on illegal immigration, passengers aboard buses and trains on domestic routes have increasingly been subjected to immigration checks, and Border Patrol officers have been found working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles from the border.
The company said that it would place stickers on its buses “clearly displaying our position,” and that it planned to send “a letter to the Department of Homeland Security formally stating we do not consent to warrantless searches on our buses and in terminal areas that are not open to the general public.”
The changes were to take effect immediately. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Greyhound’s announcement.
“We are pleased to see Greyhound clearly communicate that it does not consent to racial profiling and harassment on its buses,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director for policy in the A.C.L.U.’s equality division.
“Greyhound is sending a message that it prioritizes the communities it serves,” she added. “We will continue to push other transportation companies to follow its leadership.” Other bus carriers including Jefferson Lines and MTRWestern do not provide consent to warrantless immigration enforcement checks of their buses, according to their websites.
In a statement on Saturday, a Customs and Border Protection official said that while the agency “does not comment on materials asserted to be leaked internal memos, management regularly disseminates information to reinforce existing protocols.”
The official did not directly address Greyhound’s change but added that “enforcement operations away from the immediate border are performed consistent with law and in direct support of immediate border enforcement efforts, and such operations function as a means of preventing smuggling and other criminal organizations from exploitation of existing transportation hubs to travel further into the United States.”
In its statement on Friday, Greyhound referred to a “policy change” at the border agency, although it wasn’t clear that the agency had in fact altered any of its policies.
“We welcome the clarity that this change in protocol brings, as it aligns with our previously stated position, which is that we do not consent to warrantless searches,” the company said. “We are providing drivers and terminal employees with updated training regarding this policy change.”
Last year, Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington State, said that Greyhound’s practice of allowing searches of its vehicles at a train station and bus terminal in Spokane fell “harshly on passengers of color, who are reportedly singled out by C.B.P. for questioning and detention.”
A 2018 “Transportation Not Deportation” petition that collected over 200,000 signatures demanded that Greyhound stop allowing Border Patrol agents on its buses without a warrant or probable cause.
The aggressive immigration enforcement tactics taking place nationwide are not limited to buses. In a widely circulated video recorded in El Paso last week, Border Patrol agents can be seen using a Taser to subdue and apprehend a man in a Burger King restaurant.
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.