Just before Spokane’s trial begins, Greyhound agrees to pay $ 2.2 million to end warrantless immigration sweeps
OLYMPIA – Greyhound Lines Inc. will pay $ 2.2 million to end legal action over its practice of allowing warrantless immigration sweeps of United States Customs and Border Protection officers in its bus to Washington.
The bus line failed to warn its customers of the sweeps, distorted its role in allowing them to occur and subjected the passengers of color to invasive questioning, according to state attorney general Bob Ferguson, who has initiated the pursuit.
In addition to the $ 2.2 million, the bus line will need to pass reforms to stop sweeps, such as creating a clear policy denying customs and border protection officers on its buses without warrant or suspicion. reasonable.
“Greyhound has an obligation to its customers – an obligation that it cannot set aside so that immigration officers can go on a fishing expedition aboard its buses,” Ferguson said in a statement.
The settlement was filed on Monday, the day it was due to be tried in Spokane County Superior Court.
Ferguson said the $ 2.2 million would be used to compensate passengers detained, arrested or deported after immigration officers boarded a bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center. The amount of individual restitution would depend on the claims and the severity of the damage, according to Ferguson’s office.
From 2013 to 2018, nearly 200 people were apprehended at the downtown bus depot, according to a previous report by The Spokesman-Review.
In January 2019, a Portland comedian was driving home on a Greyhound bus after a concert in Pullman when he said immigration officials forced him off the bus and falsely accused him of being in the country illegally. Comedian Mohanad Elshieky tweeted about his experience, drawing national attention to the issue in Spokane.
Ferguson’s lawsuit was filed in April 2020 and alleged that the national bus company had authorized sweeping of its buses since at least 2013.
Greyhound has acknowledged the searches since 2018, but said he had no right to refuse the searches. In 2020, a leaked memo confirmed that officers cannot board private buses without the bus company’s consent, prompting Greyhound to stop allowing searches.
The searches led to invasive questioning by armed federal agents of the passengers of color, who were often forced off the bus, detained, arrested or had their luggage searched, according to the lawsuit.
Lili Navarrete, Raíz of Planned Parenthood public affairs director for Greater Washington and Northern Idaho, has been working to stop immigration sweeps on Greyhound buses since 2018.
Not only were members of the local community detained, Navarrete said, but people coming to Raíz for services were late or missed their appointments because they were too afraid to take the bus.
Navarrete and other members of the community organized meetings and a protest in Spokane, which ultimately led to Spokane City Council passing an ordinance limiting the ability of the border patrol to search buses without written permission.
“We said, ‘That’s enough,’” Navarrete said.
News of Monday’s settlement was “a huge victory for Spokane,” especially as Spokane’s organizations worked together to make it happen, she said.
“All these years of fighting, the stress, the discrimination that we still face,” Navarrete said. “It’s an accomplishment that shows we can do it. “
In a brief statement, Greyhound said he was happy to reach a deal with Washington.
“By accepting the Consent Order, we will be communicating more widely to our customers the policies and procedures we already have in place to serve the citizens of Washington state,” the statement said.
According to the regulations, Greyhound will also be required to issue a public statement in English and Spanish, place stickers on its buses and provide its drivers with signs stating that it does not consent to immigration officers boarding their buses. bus without warrant or reasonable suspicion.
It should also create a complaints procedure for passengers who wish to complain about the presence of immigration officers on their buses and prove semi-annual reports to the attorney general’s office indicating whether immigration officers have boarded the buses. in Washington.
Despite Monday’s victory, Navarrete said they were not finished.
Local organizations will continue to fix things that are unfair to immigrants in Spokane and beyond.
“We will continue to fight for their rights,” she said. “They are members of the community, wherever they live, regardless of their immigration status. “