Border Patrol’s Unlawful Detention of Greyhound Bus Passenger in Spokane Leads to Damages Claim

News Release: 
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
A routine bus trip home to his family became a nightmare for a man whom U.S. Border Patrol agents unlawfully detained for hours as he tried to travel from Montana through the Spokane Intermodal Center to his home in Washington.

On behalf of the detained man, Andres Sosa Segura, the ACLU of Washington (ACLU-WA) and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) today filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA allows people to collect monetary damages for wrongful conduct by federal government employees. Sosa’s claims include false arrest and false imprisonment.

Sosa was singled out by the Border Patrol agents as the only Latinx-appearing passenger on his Greyhound bus on an entirely domestic bus route. He was transferring buses at the Spokane Intermodal Center on his way home to his family. On his way to catch the second bus, the agents stopped him, demanded his “papers,” and escalated their detention after he showed them a “know your rights” card.

The Border Patrol agents ordered Sosa outside the station for further interrogation, placed him in their vehicle, and finally transported him to a facility about an hour away, where he was locked in a cell for several hours before being released.

“It was scary,” Sosa said. “I was just trying to get home. I didn’t understand what was happening, why they were keeping me, where they were taking me, or when I’d be able to see my family.” Not only was Sosa terrified, he missed his bus and his wife was forced to drive several hours to pick him up.

Sosa’s attorney had given him a card describing his right to remain silent and other rights, and had instructed him to use the card if he was ever stopped by law enforcement. However, when he showed the card to the agents, instead of respecting his rights, the agents indicated that they assumed Sosa was “illegal” because he had the card.

“When Border Patrol doesn’t follow the rules, all of our rights are threatened,” said the ACLU-WA’s Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel, Enoka Herat. “Mr. Sosa did the right thing by displaying the card. Respecting a person’s right to remain silent is one of our most basic expectations of law enforcement.”

“Immigration enforcement officers must comply with the law,” said Matt Adams, legal director for NWIRP. “People don’t give up their constitutional rights by riding on Greyhound. The bus station in Spokane is not a constitution-free zone.”

The incident is related to ongoing discriminatory activity by Border Patrol agents in and around Spokane, which is about 100 miles from the Canadian border. Earlier this year, a Latinx family traveling from Seattle to Montana was questioned on a Greyhound bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center. Agents arrested the family after asking if they were “illegal” and whether they had documents.  
Border Patrol agents’ intimidation of Greyhound bus passengers also has recently received nationwide attention. “The pattern of Border Patrol intimidation in Spokane does nothing to make us safer and has nothing to do with cross-border travel or criminal activity,” said Herat.

Border Patrol is a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Concern about CBP’s activities in Spokane is growing because it recently announced plans to hire 30 or more new agents in Spokane.

Sosa is represented by Nancy Talner and Eunice Hyunhye Cho of the ACLU-WA, and Matt Adams, Glenda Madrid, and Leila Kang of NWIRP.