Rochester advocates and local officials celebrate Greyhound limiting Border Patrol on buses

Feb 26, 2020

Immigration advocates and local officials celebrated Greyhound's policy change to not allow Border Patrol searches on their buses unless officers have a warrant. 

Stevie Vargas with Citizen Action of New York says that the ability for families to move freely cannot be discounted.
Credit Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI News

The change hits home for Stevie Vargas with Citizen Action of New York. Her stepfather is undocumented. She said the change will mean more people will have the freedom to board buses and visit loved ones in other cities without fear of persecution.

"It's one step closer to make sure we can do those things, live freely like our brothers and sisters in the same community without fear, without anxiety, that really creates trauma within family dynamics," Vargas said.

Brighton Town Board member Robin Wilt says it is an intersectional issue that affects people of color, regardless of citizenship or legal status.

"This is not just about undocumented people, this is about our entire community and how certain people are targeted through these policies," Wilt said.

Greyhound issued a statement that they plan to begin the implementation of these changes immediately.

The company also said that: "Greyhound’s policy stems from the release of USBP’s internal memo highlighting a change in their protocol when it comes to bus checks. Additionally, Greyhound has continued to listen to those advocating for change and we worked with the ACLU in regard to this issue." 

Iman Abid with the New York Civil Liberties Union says that she wants to ensure the new policy is properly implemented.

"We want to make sure that Border Patrol isn't on these buses without warrant," she said. "That passengers, that bystanders are all aware of these policies so that if they happen to see something, if something doesn’t look right based on these new policies themselves, we're then able to identify how we can follow through with the stations themselves and Greyhound."

David Markallo with Rochester Rapid Response Network says that he hopes to see "Know Your Rights" information in the local bus station with the implementation of Greyhound's new policy.
Credit Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI News

David Markallo with Rochester Rapid Response Network said that members have supported three people who were detained at the local Rochester bus station and sent to the Federal Detention Center in Batavia since the advocacy group began in 2017.

Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement that enforcement operations are consistent with law and are a means of preventing smuggling and other criminal activity from "exploiting transportation hubs."

Greyhound's full statement:

Greyhound recently became aware of USBP's change in protocol, dated January 28th 2020, regarding its policy on consent during bus checks. Greyhound is working diligently to develop clear communications for both our customers and team members regarding this policy change.

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; we are providing drivers and terminal employees with updated training regarding this policy change.

We will also place stickers on all of our buses clearly displaying our position. In addition, Greyhound will be sending 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.

Our primary concern is the safety of our customers and team members, and we are confident these changes will lead to an improved experience for all parties involved. We plan to begin the implementation of these changes immediately.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's full statement:

While CBP does not comment on materials asserted to be leaked internal memos, management regularly disseminates information to reinforce existing protocols. For decades, U.S. Border Patrol agents have routinely engaged in enforcement operations at transportation hubs.

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.

The U.S. Border Patrol conducts regular outreach with transportation companies to foster good working relationships.