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AG Ferguson orders Greyhound to stop allowing warrantless immigration sweeps

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that Greyhound Lines Inc. will pay $2.2 million to resolve his lawsuit over the bus line’s practice of allowing U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents on its buses to conduct warrantless and suspicionless immigration sweeps when it didn’t have to. Greyhound failed to warn customers of the sweeps, misrepresented its role in allowing the sweeps to occur and subjected its passengers to discrimination based on race, skin color or national origin.

Ferguson will use the payment to provide restitution to those passengers who were detained, arrested, or deported after immigration agents boarded their bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center, and for partial reimbursement of his office’s litigation costs. The amount of restitution each individual receives will depend on the number of claims and the severity of harms suffered due to Greyhound’s conduct.

The consent decree, filed in Spokane County Superior Court on the eve of trial, requires Greyhound to enact a number of corporate reforms to end its unlawful conduct. For example, Greyhound must create a clear corporate policy denying CBP agents permission to board its buses in Washington without warrants or reasonable suspicion. The national bus line must also train its drivers and other employees on how to communicate that policy to CBP agents.

“My office first insisted that Greyhound make these corporate reforms in 2019,” Ferguson said. “If Greyhound had simply accepted our reasonable demand, they would have avoided a lawsuit. Now, on the eve of trial, Greyhound’s evasion has come to an end, and now it must pay $2 million for the harm it caused Washingtonians. Greyhound has an obligation to its customers — an obligation it cannot set aside so immigration agents can go on fishing expeditions aboard its buses.”

In addition to paying $2.2 million, Greyhound is also required to:

  • Create a clear corporate policy that denies CBP agents permission to board its buses without warrants or reasonable suspicion in the State of Washington
  • Provide training for its drivers and employees on how to communicate its corporate policy to CBP agents
  • Issue a public statement, at minimum in English and Spanish, clarifying that Greyhound does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses without a warrant or reasonable suspicion. It must put this statement on its website and communicate it to federal immigration law enforcement agencies and the City of Spokane, which owns the Intermodal Center
  • Place stickers on or near the front door of its buses stating that it does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses without a warrant or reasonable suspicion
  • Provide placards for its drivers to give to immigration agents stating that Greyhound does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses to conduct warrantless or suspicionless searches
  • Provide and display adequate notice to its customers of the risks of warrantless and suspicionless searches in the State of Washington wherever it sells bus tickets
  • Implement a complaint procedure for passengers who want to complain about the presence of immigration agents on Greyhound buses or at Greyhound bus stations, and notify the Attorney General’s Office of any such complaints received
  • Provide semi-annual reports to the Attorney General’s Office, including reporting whether immigration agents have boarded Greyhound buses in the State of Washington

Case Background
Ferguson filed his lawsuit against the national bus line company in April of 2020 alleging that Greyhound allowed the sweeps aboard its buses since at least 2013. Greyhound publicly acknowledged the sweeps in 2018. Greyhound has publicly acknowledged since at least mid-2018 that CBP immigration sweeps on its buses harm Greyhound’s passengers.

Immigration sweeps aboard Greyhound buses delay travel for all passengers. During the sweeps, Latinx and other passengers of color are subjected to invasive questioning by armed federal agents and are often required to get off the bus. CBP agents sometimes detain or arrest passengers, or rifle through their luggage, while others watch.

Greyhound transported more than 420,000 passengers to or from the Spokane Intermodal Center between 2013 and 2020.

Greyhound’s conduct caused passengers to experience travel delays, missed connections, alarm, fear, questioning, search, and detention by federal immigration officials, and/or discrimination on the basis of race, color and/or national origin.

Ferguson’s office began urging Greyhound to change its practice of voluntarily allowing the sweeps in February of 2019. Greyhound refused to change its practices. Ferguson sent Greyhound a letter on May 28, 2019, demanding Greyhound make specific reforms to protect its customers.

Greyhound refused. The company continued to refuse to provide adequate notice to its customers of the risk of immigration sweeps on its buses. Moreover, it refused to implement a corporate policy to deny CBP agents permission to board its buses without warrants or at least reasonable suspicion. The company also refused to provide updated training to its drivers and agents on the same topic.

In response to mounting public pressure resulting from media coverage of the sweeps, the company privately communicated with CBP in April 2018. According to a federal employee recounting a conversation with Greyhound, the company remained committed to supporting CBP enforcement actions, but felt “abandoned” by CBP in the face of public pressure, the lawsuit asserts.

For years, Greyhound claimed that the company was “required to comply with the law by allowing Border Patrol agents to board our buses when they ask to do so,” even though CBP’s own materials contradict Greyhound’s assertion, stating that agents may only board buses to conduct warrantless and suspicionless enforcement sweeps at places like the Spokane Intermodal Center with the consent of the bus company.

In February of 2020, a memo from then-U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost surfaced that confirmed Ferguson’s contention that CBP agents can only perform warrantless and suspicionless immigration sweeps on board buses with the consent of the company’s owner or employees. The memo undermined Greyhound’s public position and confirmed Ferguson’s legal analysis, which he shared with the company back in 2019. A week after the memo was reported in the media, Greyhound stated to the media that it would no longer allow the searches.

Despite its public statements, Greyhound continued to refuse to provide adequate notice to its customers about the risk that they will be subjected to warrantless and suspicionless searches. Greyhound continued to wrongly argue that the company had no choice but to allow federal immigration officials to board its buses and conduct the sweeps, even though the company has long been aware that CPB’s own materials contradict their position.

In March, Judge Maryann C. Moreno denied Greyhound’s attempt to dismiss Ferguson’s lawsuit. In her ruling, Judge Moreno rejected Greyhound’s argument that the company had no choice but to allow federal immigration officials to board its buses and conduct the sweeps.

A trial to decide the case was set to begin on Sept. 27.

Assistant Attorneys General Lane Polozola, Yesica Hernandez, Brian Sutherland and Emily Nelson, Investigator Alma Poletti, Paralegal Jennifer Treppa and Legal Assistants Caiti Hall and Anna Alfonso with the AGO’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Division handled the case for Washington.

Washington’s consumer protection laws protect everyone who lives and does business in Washington state. The Attorney General’s Office helps all Washingtonians. The office is not part of the federal government and will not turn over information to immigration authorities.

The Attorney General’s Office will use Greyhound’s $2.2 million payment to provide restitution to passengers who were detained, arrested or deported after immigration agents boarded their bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center, and for partial reimbursement of his office’s litigation costs.


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