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What are your rights when a Border Patrol agent boards your bus?

Following a viral Twitter thread from a Portland comedian about a search by Border Patrol agents, local advocates shared what rights you have in such a situation.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Legal advocates at the Spokane Center for Justice are weighing-in on the matter of Border Patrol agents boarding buses and asking for people’s citizenship status. They have recommendations for passengers.

The first comment Dainen Penta, the new executive director of Spokane’s Center for Justice, made about this issue is traveling is a constitutional right.

And the right to travel and not be searched or have property taken without a legitimate reason is protected under the Fourth Amendment. It cites “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”.

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In a situation where a Border Patrol agent gets on a bus and asks a person for their immigration status Penta said passengers should know their rights and use them.

"Those who are traveling should request an attorney. They are not required to show any particular documents to a Border Patrol agent or customs enforcement,” Penta said.

Penta said it is a constitutional right to have legal representation. However, Border Patrol or Customs agents do not have to tell you about your right to have an attorney.

"Immigration is a civil matter not a criminal matter. Everyone has the same rights to demand their constitutional rights be respected,” Penta said. "I definitely believe and the Center for Justice firmly believes that we can strike a balance between enforcing the law, but what we also have to be careful of is that we don't overstep our bounds, that we don't allow government and agencies of the government over their step bounds."

Over the last year, Greyhound Bus has received some backlash for allowing Border Patrol agents to board their buses and ask people for their immigration status (insert link here). At the time, a spokesperson said their hands were tied because federal law allows these stops within 100 miles of any border. Monday, a spokesperson said the bus company supports reforms to the existing practice.

“Understanding the sensitivity and impact of the current practice by federal immigration agents, we encourage those seeking changes to this practice to work with their Congressional representatives to implement changes to this law,” the spokesperson said.

Greyhound recently made changes to the “Your rights and rules on board”  section of their website, which spells out passengers’ rights when it comes to contact with Border Patrol agents.

“We are also in the process of implementing similar communications in our terminals nationwide. These positive efforts resulted from conversations internally as well as with human rights groups as we support changes to current legislation,” the spokesperson said.

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