Concord Coach Lines plans to review its policy of allowing federal Border Patrol agents to conduct immigration checks aboard its buses.

The decision by the bus line – which connects Maine with Boston and New York City – comes after Greyhound, the country’s largest bus line, said last week that it would no longer allow immigration officials to conduct warrantless immigration checks aboard its buses.

“The circumstances regarding law enforcement and bus passenger travel as compared with other means of travel have not changed,” Benjamin Blunt, vice president of Concord Coach Lines, said in a written statement Monday. “Because many of our passengers are coming from or connecting to Greyhound buses, however, we’re concerned that conflicting policies are potentially problematic for customers. We’re going to be consulting with our national association and with legal counsel.”

Blunt previously had defended the company’s policy of allowing Border Patrol agents to board its buses for immigration checks, saying the company did not want its drivers to “play the role of a judge in determining probable cause regarding law enforcement actions.”

New Hampshire-based Concord Coach operates in New England and is frequently used by Maine travelers for trips to Boston, Logan Airport and New York City.

Greyhound said last week that it had sent a letter informing the Department of Homeland Security of its new policy. The company also said it would train employees on the revised policy and put stickers on its buses saying the company did not consent to searches.

Immigration checks on Concord buses have fueled controversy in Maine. The U.S. Border Patrol has cited its authority to conduct citizenship checks without a warrant within 100 miles of the country’s border, which includes all of Maine. But The Associated Press recently reported that a memo from the top official in the Border Patrol says that agents need the consent of a bus line’s owner or an employee to board a bus to conduct citizenship checks.

Critics of the practice, including the ACLU and immigration rights advocates, have said that allowing agents to board a bus and ask about citizenship status is intimidating and discriminatory, and violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Greyhound and Concord Coach have both faced criticism from the ACLU over their policies of allowing immigration checks on their buses. Both lines had said that their interpretations of immigration law was that the companies were barred from refusing to allow immigration agents on board their buses for immigration checks.

Greyhound faces a lawsuit in California that alleged the previous policy on immigration checks violated consumer protection laws.

“We’re thrilled that Greyhound is doing the right thing to protect their customers from racial profiling and harassment,” Emma Bond, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine, said Monday. “It’s not too late for Concord Coach to follow suit and send the message that they value their passengers and community, too.”

The ACLU of Maine, along with affiliates in New Hampshire and Vermont, has been urging Concord Coach lines to revise its policy.

Concord has posted notices in its stations reminding passengers that they have the right to remain silent if approached by an immigration official and that they can refuse to consent to a search. The notices also urge passengers to consult with a lawyer before answering questions about their citizenship or immigration status or signing any paperwork.

It’s not clear how frequently federal agents have boarded buses in Maine, but the practice has attracted more attention and controversy in recent years amid a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

In January 2018, passengers boarding a Concord Coach bus at the Bangor Transportation Center were met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents asking about their citizenship. No one on the bus was arrested, but at least one passenger expressed concerns that prompted the ACLU to look into immigration checks and urge companies like Concord and others to deny agents the ability to board and search their buses.

“For decades, U.S. Border Patrol agents have routinely engaged in enforcement operations at transportation hubs,” Michael McCarthy, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman for New England, said in an email Monday night. “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.”

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: