Concord Coach Lines announced Friday that it will no longer allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to conduct immigration checks on its buses without warrants.

The change comes after months of pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union and about a week after Greyhound, the nation’s largest bus company, made a similar policy change in response to a leaked border patrol memo showing that agents can’t board private buses without the consent of the bus company.

“The safety of our passengers is not something that we take lightly,” Concord Coach Lines Vice President Benjamin Blunt said in a statement. “We have understood the arguments for making this change, but have worked to fully understand the implications that a change would have on law enforcement’s ability to prevent all forms of criminal behavior. We are confident that this is the right thing to do.”

The Associated Press obtained the leaked memo this month stating the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prevents agents from boarding buses and questioning passengers without a warrant or the consent of the company.

Concord had previously said it was unwilling to deny federal law enforcement agents access to their buses or put staff in the position of determining whether a federal agent’s burden of proof has been met. On Monday, however, the company said it would review its internal policies following Greyhound’s decision to stop allowing immigration checks without a warrant.

In the statement Friday, Blunt said Concord employees have been equipped with cards that will communicate the denial to Border Patrol agents. Employees also have been instructed not to physically impede an agent from boarding a bus if they have other lawful grounds or otherwise insist on boarding.

“Both Greyhound and the American Bus Association have recently revised their policies, and while we feel that the safety and security of all Concord Coach Lines passengers should be our primary focus, we also believe it is important to be consistent with our bus industry partners,” Blunt said.

The checks at transportation hubs are nothing new, though critics of the practice say they have become increasingly common and discriminatory under President Trump’s administration.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol, which operates under U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says that transportation hubs are used by alien smuggling and drug trafficking organizations, and the checks provide additional enforcement beyond what is done in the immediate border area.

Last summer, the ACLU of Maine called on Concord to refuse to consent to warrant-less searches after obtaining Customs and Border Protection training documents showing transportation checks are almost always consensual and passengers have the right to refuse to cooperate.

The group is in ongoing litigation with the federal agency over public records it has requested related to citizenship checks partly prompted by concerns over checks at the Bangor Transportation Center.

“We are thrilled that Concord is joining other bus companies in doing the right thing to protect their passengers,” Emma Bond, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement Friday night.

“The ACLU and partner organizations and activists have been calling for this change for over a year. Today’s announcement shows what happens when people join together and stand up for what they believe in. This change will go a long way toward protecting people from racial profiling and government overreach.”

Michael McCarthy, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman for New England, also responded to Concord’s announcement with a statement Friday saying that while the agency “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,” McCarthy said.  “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.”

 

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