Spokane Responds to Immigration Raids
The federal agents enter Spokane’s Greyhound Lines boarding area downtown with guns and dogs. Without search warrants, they question passengers who’ve boarded buses, demanding their identification and proof of citizenship.
They claim authority under rules allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to search bus passengers within 100 miles of the U.S. border with Canada.
Alarmed by this growing trend in the anti-immigrant Trump administration, the Spokane City Council has been pushing back.
On October 22, members of the Spokane Alliance, FUSE, the Spokane Coalition of Color, ACLU and other immigrants’ rights groups packed the City Council chambers in support of an ordinance that declared the bus boarding area of the downtown Intermodal Center private property protected from warrantless searches.
Its title: “Protecting Passenger Rights for a Safer Spokane.”
After emotional testimony from the audience about the pall of fear the federal government’s expanded search policies have cast over bus travelers, the Council voted 6-1 to enact the new civil rights ordinance.
The Spokane law is part of a national backlash to the government’s immigration tactics.
On Nov. 8, lawyers for a California woman asked a state judge for an order compelling Greyhound Lines to stop allowing border patrol agents on their buses. The woman, traveling between San Diego and Phoenix,
was questioned after border patrol agents pulled over the bus in which she was riding. The lawsuit seeks class action status for all California residents subject to similar searches.
Also, Motel 6 in early November agreed to pay up to $8.9 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit to stop warrantless searches of motel guests. Employees at two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix motels had provided information on Latino guests to federal agents without a government warrant, leading to their detention.
Greyhound’s 1,600 buses move 17 million passengers a year across the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to The Washington Post.
After the Spokane vote, local activists left City Hall feeling victorious, but their satisfaction was short-lived.
The next day, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he would refuse to enforce the ordinance, and the border patrol said it would ignore it.
City Councilman Breean Beggs, a lawyer who helped draft the new ordinance, said it’s legally problematic that the mayor’s office and the city council city are at loggerheads on the issue.
“Need a lawsuit,” was Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart’s e-mailed reply in late November to a question on how the standoff over bus searches would be resolved.
Submitted by Karen Dorn Steele, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and a member of the Spokane Alliance Executive Strategy Team.