ALAMEDA — A lawsuit filed in a California court is accusing Greyhound Lines of violating state law by allowing border protection officers to board its buses and demand information from passengers.
The suit stems from a 2017 incident where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers boarded a bus traveling from San Diego to Phoenix.
In her complaint, plaintiff Rocmo Cordova accuses the company of allowing the officers to board the bus and interrogate passengers, violating California consumer protection laws barring business practices that involve racial profiling.
"Greyhound voluntarily subjected riders to violations of California law," Darren Robbins, Cordova's lawyer, told the Northern California Record. "[It] participated in a process where agents were allowed onto buses."
Once on board, the armed officers stood in the narrow aisles and intimidated the passengers, Robbins alleged, adding that the targeting of Greyhound buses amounts to racial profiling because of their disproportionate use by Hispanics.
"It is inappropriate and intolerable," Robbins said.
This type of action has been going on for some time, but it has "ratcheted up" in 2017 and 2018, the attorney said.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Greyhound said: "CBP officers do not ask permission to board our buses. We do not want to put our drivers’ safety or the safety of our passengers at risk by attempting to stop a federal agent from conducting checks.”
The CBP told the same newspaper that it had targeted bus stations and other transport centers for decades, with the aim of targeting human and drug trafficking.
But Robbins, the attorney, said officers were waiting for people to board buses before taking action so as to allegedly trap and intimidate a greater number of people in a confined space.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of multiple reports this year of Greyhound buses being boarded, most within a 100-mile border zone where officers have broader powers than elsewhere in the country.
While the California suit is not alleging violations of constitutional rights, the ACLU, in a factsheet, has pointed out that those greater powers at the border zone do not include the right pull over or search vehicles without a warrant or "probable cause" that an immigration violation has occurred.