Border Patrol searches have increased on Greyhound, other buses far from border

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
By Paul Martin

Advocates argue that asking Greyhound passengers about their citizenship can be unconstitutional and involve racial profiling.

By Adiel Kaplan and Vanessa Swales
June 5, 2019

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Mercedes Phelan was confused last April when Border Patrol agents boarded the Greyhound bus she was riding in Pennsylvania and asked her if she was a citizen.

Ten months later, when she says they asked the same thing on an Amtrak train in Syracuse, N.Y., she was mad.

“I was super angry because [they were] obviously profiling,” said Phelan, who is black, Puerto Rican and a United States citizen. “They literally skipped over every single white person.”

She says she watched agents walk down the aisles, stopping only when they saw a person of color, to ask “‘Are you from here? Do you have papers?”

Bus and train travelers across the northern U.S. report being stopped, questioned and detained with increasing frequency since the first year of the Trump administration. That year, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, reversed an Obama-era decision to restrict approval for those operations.

In November 2017, according to emails obtained exclusively by the ACLU of Maine through a public records lawsuit and provided to NBC News, a Border Patrol official in Maine told agents they were ready to begin boarding buses and wished them “Happy hunting!”

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