By Jenn Stanley for New Hampshire News Connection
CONCORD — The American Civil Liberties Union wants passengers on Concord Coach Lines to know their rights in the event that their bus is subject to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection search.
A year after the civil rights group sued CBP for records relating to its bus surveillance program, the ACLU of Maine said it's receiving reports that there has been an uptick in warrantless bus raids throughout Northern New England. Immigration officials say the raids are necessary to identify suspected terrorists and people unauthorized to be in the United States.
But ACLU of Maine staff attorney Emma Bond said they violate paying passengers' Fourth Amendment rights.
"We don't want to live in a 'show me your papers' society," Bond said. "When people encounter armed law enforcement officers on the bus, it is shocking and it is surprising."
Concord Coach Lines responded to the ACLU's letter, saying it would continue to comply with the federal government. Bond said those in positions of power, such as the regional bus line in this case, should help vulnerable people by standing up to unconstitutional practices.
As a result of its lawsuit, the ACLU discovered CBP's training materials state, "A bus passenger has the right to refuse consent to search." They also state the agent does not need to tell passengers their rights during the warrantless raids. So Bond said it's important for all travelers to know their rights.
"First, you have the right to remain silent. Second, you can say, 'I do not consent to a search,' or you can ask, 'Am I free to leave?'" she said. "Third, you have the right to record law enforcement officers so long as you do not interfere, and that can be a really powerful way to hold law enforcement accountable."
Bond said those confused about their rights can contact an immigration lawyer for more information.