Back in the 90s when I was a super weird raver traveling cross country by Greyhound, a conservative bus driver in rural Texas gave me quite the hassle. Did I have booze in my water bottle? Drugs? Pot? Was I a lesbian? He made no secret of his disdain for ‘my type,’ loudly, in front of the whole bus. In the wee hours of the night, we were stopped by police on a ‘complaint’ by a ‘passenger.’
The cops brought drug sniffing dogs up the stairs to search us, but the very buzz-cut bus driver who hassled me blocked them physically and declared “not without a warrant.” He looked right at me. It’s people like this dude that actually give me hope. He didn’t like me, he was pretty sure I was a criminal, but he wasn’t about to let police abuse our rights based on his personal feelings. He spent hours wrapped up in that hot mess and never backed down.
Last Saturday on a Greyhound bus passing through Spokane, two men, a father and son, one legal, one illegal, were detained by ICE agents after a “show us your papers” stop based only on the men’s appearance. While the alt-right is yelling at shadows, saying we need to respect their hateful speech because we can’t allow our Constitutional Rights to be suppressed, I don’t hear their complaining about the concrete expansion of ICE powers actually eroding our Constitution.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said they can legally conduct checks without a warrant within 100 air miles of a border. For context, a bus can start out deep within the US but once it’s “near” the border it can be searched, legally, without a warrant. I wonder where my Texas bus-driver is now and what he’s thinking?
“We're talking about purely domestic routes that happen to be within a hundred miles of the border," said Jorge Baron, the Executive Director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. "We don’t think in those situations the kind of expansive search the Border Patrol is doing is valid under the constitution.” I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to say my Texas bus driver, if alive, is probably steaming mad.
In Saturday’s father-son detention, Sergio Varga had legal DACA status but was detained anyway, even after showing a valid license. “I had DACA. They said it expired. They said Trump already took that away,” according to Vera.
“It’s worrisome because as someone who doesn’t have any criminal record, why would I be detained?” Indeed Trump promised he would only target criminal immigrants, and that fooled a lot of people. Remember the beloved conservative restaurant owner whose wife voted Trump and then he got deported?
“I wish they would post it on the Greyhound website or have some kind of announcement to bring document with you,” said Sergio Vera, whose father is still being detained and waiting for a court date. Indeed. I’ll add that I wish I had been paying more attention to this egregious abuse of power by ICE. I wish more people realized that this affects us all, even if you are a legal citizen.
It’s actually important HOW we go about enforcing laws. Even if you want all immigrants deported. Even if you want to argue they are criminals simply for crossing the borders, can you see why ICE is problematic? Can you see why my Texas bus driver defended my rights even though he thought I was a criminal?
Get the word out. The constitution is suspended within 100 miles of the border.
Submitted by Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca