The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has signed a letter asking Greyhound Lines to block federal immigration checks on its buses.

Immigration inspections at transportation hubs are not a new practice. However, the ACLU and immigration advocates have said they are becoming more common under new enforcement priorities from the Trump administration. In January, passengers boarding a Concord Coach bus at the Bangor Transportation Center were met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents asking about their citizenship, though no one on the bus was arrested.

ACLU affiliates in California, Texas, Washington, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, Florida and Arizona also signed the letter.

“These intrusive encounters often evince a blatant disregard for passengers’ constitutional rights and have even resulted in CBP agents removing passengers from buses and arresting them,” the letter states. “Greyhound’s cooperation with CBP is unnecessarily facilitating the violation of its passengers’ rights.”

In an email statement, a spokesperson for Greyhound confirmed that the company received the letter.

“We understand their concerns and those of our customers with regard to this matter,” the statement reads. “However, Greyhound is required to comply with the law. We are aware that routine transportation checks not only affect our operations, but our customers’ travel experience and will continue to do everything legally possible to minimize any negative experiences. Greyhound has opened a dialogue with the Border Patrol to see if there is anything that can be done to balance the enforcement of federal law with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers.”

In the letter, the ACLU affiliates had denied that Greyhound is required to cooperate with the checks.

“Rather, Greyhound has a Fourth Amendment right to deny CBP permission to board and search its buses without a judicial warrant,” the letter states.

U.S. Border Patrol, which is part of Customs and Border Protection, has the authority to conduct citizenship checks without a warrant within 100 miles of the nation’s land and coastal borders. That includes the entire state of Maine. The ACLU said 10 other states – Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – are also entirely or almost entirely in that 100-mile zone.

In January, officials in the Houlton sector for Customs and Border Protection said the agency conducts daily checks on the Cyr Bus Line, an Old Town-based company that operates in the United States and Canada. They declined to say where and how often those checks take place elsewhere in the state.

The ACLU of Maine learned about the citizenship check in Bangor from a concerned passenger. Zachary Heiden, the organization’s legal director, said he has not heard about other checks since then. Heiden said the ACLU of Maine has not yet decided whether to send a similar letter to Concord Coach, the bus company involved in that incident.

“Depending on how things go with Greyhound, that is certainly something we may decide to do,” Heiden said. “We’re hoping these companies will stand up for our values, and those values include making sure that everybody who travels on their buses is treated fairly and is not subject to discrimination.”

The citizenship check in Bangor prompted the ACLU of Maine to file a Freedom of Information Act request for records from the past year related to citizenship inquiries at the Bangor and Portland transportation centers. The Portland Press Herald filed a similar request last month. Customs and Border Patrol has not yet responded to either request.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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