Concord, NH – Bus companies have the right to refuse to allow warrantless bus raids by immigration agents, according to public records obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by the ACLU. In a letter to Concord Coach Lines today, ACLU affiliates in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont called on the company to protect its passengers and refuse consent to such searches.

In response to an earlier letter from the ACLU expressing concern over the warrantless raids, which subject passengers to potential racial profiling and invasions of privacy, Concord indicated the company would continue allowing immigration officials to board its buses. Concord stated it was the company’s understanding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had “different interpretations” about its “legal authority to engage in immigration enforcement activity on buses or at terminal facilities.”

Since then, in response to a public records request filed by the ACLU of Maine, CBP turned over training documents that concede CBP agents usually require consent to search or question bus passengers without a warrant. 

According to today’s letter from the ACLU, “[i]n light of the newly released public records, it is clearer than ever that Concord Coach Lines has a choice to continue to allow immigration agents to board buses and search. Choosing to consent to these bus raids jeopardizes [Concord’s] paying passengers’ Fourth Amendment rights.” The letter asks Concord to reconsider its policy and stop allowing CBP agents to board its buses and search passengers without a warrant.

Update: In response to our letter, Concord Coach provided the following response to the media: “While we have had little opportunity to review the information that the ACLU provided today, we have continued to follow and assess the legal issues surrounding CBP and their presence at bus stations,” the statement said. “We have put up posters at all of our stations that inform our passengers of their individual rights, and added a section to our website that provides information about the law, our customers’ rights, and links to additional resources – based partially on materials from the ACLU.”

Here is our response to their statement:“We understand that it is difficult to say no to federal law enforcement agents when they request consent to a search, just as it is always hard to resist those in positions of power. But consider how much harder it is for individual passengers to refuse consent when face-to-face with an armed officer blocking the aisle on a cramped bus. We ask Concord Coach Lines to stop putting its passengers in that position.” -Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine:

“We don’t live in a ‘show me your papers’ society, and people shouldn’t have to prove their citizenship every time they want to ride the bus. Concord should protect its customers and tell CBP to get a warrant.”

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director with the ACLU of New Hampshire:

“Taking the bus simply shouldn’t involve violating the constitutional rights of any passenger. Being that there is no legal obligation to allow CBP to board buses, we urge Concord Coach to stop permitting these warrantless immigration raids.”

Jay Diaz, staff attorney with the ACLU of Vermont:

“Concord Coach has no legal obligation to allow border patrol on its buses without a warrant or probable cause. Putting its own customers at risk of civil rights violations by allowing border patrol to board buses is inexcusable.”

The ACLU’s letter can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/letter_to_concord_coach_lines_072319.pdf

The CBP records can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/en/cbp-training-documents

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