The arrest of a Jamaican grandmother traveling on a Greyhound bus boarded by border patrol officers has sparked outrage as well as debate over the legality of the surprise inspection.
Video of the Friday incident captured by a passenger on the Miami-bound bus was shared to social media on Saturday by immigrant advocacy group Florida Immigrant Coalition. It’s since gone viral, raking in more than 3,000,000 views.
The passenger behind the clip, who did not wish to be identified, said the bus driver “lied to passengers,” telling them security was coming aboard for a routine inspection, according to a press statement from the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
“Instead, Customs and Border Patrol agents entered and demanded that passengers demonstrate proof of citizenship,” according to the statement.
The two-minute clip appears to show a pair of U.S. Border Patrol Officers asking a woman — later identified as Beverly — where her belongings are located before escorting her off the bus.
She was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Enforcement Removal Operations only a few days after her arrest on Friday, CBS Miami reported. Her family has since been unable to get in touch with her.
“My mother-in-law came to visit me last week. She’s my daughter’s grandmother and this was their first time meeting each other,” Beverly’s daughter-in-law said in a statement.
“I dropped her off at the Greyhound bus stop Friday morning and never got word of her arrival. I’m very concerned about these officers questioning her without a lawyer present.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in a statement to the Miami Herald said the woman, a Jamaica native, had overstayed her tourist visa. And while the Fourth Amendment protects people from arbitrary stops and searches, federal law allows for this to be disregarded in areas within 100 miles of the United States border.
But according to the American Civil Liberties Union, agents “cannot pull anyone over without ‘reasonable suspicion’ of an immigration violation or crime.”
“In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people,” the ACLU said in a statement.
Florida Immigrant Coalition membership director Isabel Sousa-Rodriquez echoed the sentiment.
“Without an official judicial warrant, border patrol agents should not be permitted to board the private property of the Greyhound corporation to harass its customers and violate their civil liberties,” she said in a statement.
“Floridians deserve to ride a bus in peace without having to carry a birth certificate or passport to go to Disney world, visit family or commute for work.”
Greyhound, meanwhile, in a statement said it’s legally required to comply with local, state and federal laws should officers ask to board its buses.
“Unfortunately, even routine transportation checks negatively impact our operations and some customers directly,” the statement reads. “We encourage anyone with concerns about what happened to reach out directly to these agencies.
“Greyhound will also reach out to the agencies to see if there is anything we can do on our end to minimize any negative effect of this process.”
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