An amateur video recorded U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on board a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale FL who are seen demanding proof of citizenship from passengers. On the video, a passenger asks "This is new?" just before the officers arrest a female passenger, taking her and her luggage off the bus. A passenger, Raquel Quesada, said that the Border Patrol officers told each person to present “a U.S. identification or a passport with a stamp of entrance,” according to CBS4.

The video was recorded on Friday just outside the Greyhound bus station in Fort Lauderdale. When the bus driver allegedly told passengers that “security” officers were coming aboard, the Customs and Border Protection officers began demanding documents from all those on the bus.

According to Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), the officers arrested a black woman who could not produce proof of legal residency. They took her into custody and brought along her luggage. FLIC stated that one of the woman’s family members claimed that she had been on her way to visit relatives in Orlando. The woman arrested by Border Patrol officers is a Jamaican national in her 60s, who had planned to visit a friend in Florida after visiting family in Virginia, according to Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez of FLIC. The woman is currently detained at the Broward Transitional Center at Pompano Beach FL and is awaiting deportation. 

The Miami Herald reported as early as 2011 that federal immigration agencies were targeting  Greyhound buses in their searches for illegal immigrants. According to the newspaper, the number of arrests on buses had increased by 25 percent that year. In more recent months, Border Patrol agents have conducted raids on Greyhound buses in Washington and Arizona. According to FLIC, Greyhound said that because immigration agents claim jurisdiction anywhere within 100 miles of a border, which means the entire state of Florida is covered because of its coastline. 

Approximately two-thirds of the residents of the United States live within 100 miles of a U.S. land or coastal border. The entire state of Florida is thus within such a zone. The Border Patrol can, without a warrant, interrogate or arrest any person within the borders that they have reason to believe is in the country illegally and is likely to escape before an arrest warrant can be obtained. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigration officers can, without a warrant and “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States” board and search for undocumented immigrants “in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.”

Greyhound released a statement to Miami New Times that noted that the company is required to comply with all local, state and federal laws and cooperate with the relevant enforcement agencies if they ask to board our buses or enter bus stations.  

In a Twitter post on Friday, FLIC stated: “The Border Patrol got on a Greyhound bus yesterday at 4:30 pm in Fort Lauderdale and asked every passenger for their papers and to prove citizenship. Proof of citizenship is NOT required to ride a bus!” The advocacy group is a frequent critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. On Tuesday, FLIC declared in a tweet that the amateur video of the arrest had been seen 2.3 million times. “Amid the Trump administration’s efforts to ramp up immigration arrests. It has prompted a wave of outrage among those who question the legality of the inspection," the group stated. 

The Border Patrol officers arrested a Jamaican national in her 60s, who had planned to visit a friend in Florida after visiting family in Virginia, according to Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez of FLIC. The woman is currently detained at the Broward Transitional Center at Pompano Beach FL and is awaiting deportation. 

The arrest prompted outrage among immigration advocates who question the legality of the Border Patrol’s activities. In a statement, Sousa-Rodriguez said, “Without an official judicial warrant, Border Patrol agents should not be permitted to board the private property of the Greyhound corporation to harass its customers and violate their civil liberties.” Sousa-Rodriguez added, “Floridians deserve to ride a bus in peace without having to carry a birth certificate or passport to go to Disney World, visit family, or commute for work.”

The American Civil Liberties Union notes that immigration authorities cannot pull anyone over without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime. The group also claims that immigration authorities may not search vehicles without a warrant or probable cause that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred. According to the ACLU, Border Patrol agents “routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people.”

Professor Angus Johnston of the City University of New York tweeted a warning: “The roundups are getting worse. The checkpoints are getting worse. The harassment is getting worse. The things we were worried would happen are happening.” 

Appearing to agree with Johnston was civil libertarian John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. Asking readers to set aside the issue of illegal immigration, he asked that they “think long and hard about what it means when government agents start demanding that people show their papers on penalty of arrest.” Having written, “We are not supposed to be living in a ‘show me your papers’ society,” Whitehead denounced “measures allowing police and other law enforcement officials to stop individuals (citizens and noncitizens alike),” while demanding that they “identify themselves, and subject them to patdowns, warrantless searches, and interrogations.” He wrote, “These actions fly in the face of longstanding constitutional safeguards forbidding such police state tactics.”  

“The problem with allowing government agents to demand identification from anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant—the current scheme being employed by the Trump administration to ferret out and cleanse the country of illegal immigrants—is that it lays the groundwork for a society in which you are required to identify yourself to any government worker who demands it.

“Such tactics quickly lead one down a slippery slope that ends with government agents empowered to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to increasingly intrusive demands that they prove not only that they are legally in the country, but also that they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books.

“This flies in the face of the provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares that all persons have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents. At a minimum, the Fourth Amendment protects the American people from undue government interference with their movement and from baseless interrogation about their identities or activities.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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