SPOKANE, Wash. -- Greyhound Lines Inc. will pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit over the bus line’s practice of allowing U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents to board its buses in Washington state to conduct warrantless immigration sweeps, the state attorney general said Monday.
The bus company failed to warn customers of the sweeps, misrepresented its role in allowing the sweeps to occur and subjected its passengers to discrimination based on skin color or national origin, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.
The money will provide restitution to those passengers who were detained, arrested, or deported after immigration agents boarded buses at the Spokane Intermodal Center. The amount of restitution each individual receives will depend on the number of claims and the severity of harms suffered due to Greyhound’s conduct, Ferguson said.
“Greyhound has an obligation to its customers — an obligation it cannot set aside so immigration agents can go on fishing expeditions aboard its buses,” Ferguson said in a press release.
Greyhound, based in Dallas, issued a brief statement saying it was pleased with the settlement.
“By agreeing to the consent decree, we will more extensively communicate to our customers the policies and procedures we already have in place to serve the citizens of Washington state,” the bus company said.
The settlement was filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Monday, the day the trial was set to begin.
“My office first insisted that Greyhound make these corporate reforms in 2019,” Ferguson said. “If Greyhound had simply accepted our reasonable demand, they would have avoided a lawsuit."
Under the settlement, Greyhound is also required to:
— Create a corporate policy that denies CBP agents permission to board its buses in Washington state without warrants or reasonable suspicion.
— Issue a public statement, in English and Spanish, clarifying that Greyhound does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses without a warrant or reasonable suspicion.
— Place stickers on or near the front door of its buses stating that it does not consent to immigration agents boarding its buses without a warrant or reasonable suspicion.
The lawsuit was filed in April 2020, alleging that Greyhound allowed the sweeps aboard its buses since at least 2013. Greyhound publicly acknowledged the practice in 2018.
During the sweeps, Hispanic people and other passengers of color were subjected to invasive questioning by armed federal agents and were often required to get off the bus, Ferguson said. CBP agents sometimes detained or arrested passengers, he said.
For years, Greyhound contended it was legally required to allow Border Patrol agents to board its buses. But in February 2020, a memo from then-U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost confirmed Ferguson’s contention that CBP agents can only perform warrantless immigration sweeps on board buses with the consent of the company’s owner or employees.