MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The department of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is defending its right to detain and arrest a woman found on a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale without legal documents proving her citizenship.
On Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents boarded the bus as part of a routine inspection and asked passengers for proof of citizenship.
A video taken by a passenger, and later posted on Twitter by the immigrant advocacy group Florida Immigrant Coalition(FLIC), appears to show a border agent ask a woman the location of her belongings before taking her off the bus.
.@CustomsBorder got on a Greyhound bus yesterday at 4:30pm in Fort Lauderdale and asked every passenger for their papers and to prove citizenship. Proof of citizenship is NOT required to ride a bus! For more information about your rights, call our hotline👉 1-888-600-5762 pic.twitter.com/rWJn61o8VP
— FLImmigrantCoalition (@FLImmigrant) January 20, 2018
The video went viral over the weekend amid the government shutdown and breakdown in immigration reform talks. It’s been viewed over 3,000,000 times.
According to FLIC, the bus driver told passengers security was coming onto the bus for a routine inspection. Instead, Customs and Border Patrol agents entered and began asking passengers to demonstrate proof of citizenship.
Everyday 122 Dreamers lose protection from deportation. They become vulnerable to random immigration raids like the one shown here on a @GreyhoundBus. A grandmother was detained as a result & her family has not been able to contact her. We need Congress to act now. #NoDACANoDeal pic.twitter.com/BAGMrlvkez
— FLImmigrantCoalition (@FLImmigrant) January 22, 2018
After nearly 20 minutes, passenger Raquel Quesada said the woman, later identified as Beverly, was taken off the bus.
“They asked everyone for documentation. It had to be specifically a U.S. identification or a passport with a stamp of entrance,” passenger Raquel Quesada said. “They grabbed her carry-on and escorted her off the bus.”
Just three days after she was taken into custody, Beverly was turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) for removal proceedings.
According to Customs Border Patrol, she overstayed her tourist visa.
The Florida Immigration Coalition membership director, Isabel Souza, said she spoke to Beverly’s frantic daughter-in-law.
“She says she took her mother-in-law to the bus stop and hasn’t heard from her since,” Souza said.
Souza added that the incident, though unfortunate for Beverly and her family, is not uncommon.
“We’ve actually heard accusations of border patrol agents getting on Greyhound buses, specifically, for years,” she said.
An official with Greyhound sent CBS4 this statement, it reads in part:
“We are required to comply with all local, state and federal law…unfortunately, even routine transportation checks negatively impact our operations and some customers directly.”
Quesada said, seeing it play out first hand was more than some riders could handle. While Customs and Border Patrol were abiding by the law, she said it is important to not be afraid to ask questions and know whose looking at your documents.
She said, “At the end of the day, it is your responsibility as a citizen to ask those questions because if you don’t ask them, nobody is going to ask them for you.”
FLIC clams border patrol agents should not have been allowed to board the Greyhound bus without an official judicial warrant.
However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection official say its agents routinely engage in enforcement operations at transportation hubs within the state Florida.
A former U.S. assistant attorney told CBS4 customs border patrol can do checks within a hundred miles of the ocean.
In this case, that applies to the entire state of Florida
It’s part of “layered approach to preventing illegal aliens from traveling further into the United States,” according to a statement released Monday. “These operations are conducted at strategic locations that serve as conduits for human and narcotic smuggling, disrupting criminal organizations from further exploiting this mode of transportation. Enforcement operations at transportation hubs serve as a vital component of the U.S. Border Patrol’s national security efforts”. In addition, the Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) and CFR 287 (a)(3), state that Immigration Officers, without a warrant, may “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States…board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle”. 8 CFR 287 (a)(1) defines reasonable distance as 100 air miles from the border.
She was arrested and transported to the Dania Beach Border Patrol station and later turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) for removal proceedings.
The bus was heading to downtown Miami from Orlando.