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NH ACLU calls border patrol's bus passenger questioning 'morally repugnant'

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 15. 2018 1:58PM

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent’s questioning of passengers boarding a private bus in Maine last month is “morally repugnant,” according to New Hampshire ACLU Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette.

In an incident filmed by one of the passengers, a border agent went down the line of people waiting to board a Concord Coach Lines bus in Bangor, Maine, on Memorial Day and asked them if they were American citizens.

When one passenger asked a Concord Coach Lines employee if passengers have to be citizens to board the bus, the employee replied “Yes.”

“It is inexcusable for Concord Coach to allow border patrol agents to question their own passengers about their citizenship and immigration status,” Bissonnette said in a statement. “People should be able to take the bus without fear of unfounded interrogation and deportation. Concord Coach has the right to say no to border patrol.”

He added that passengers are not obligated to answer such questions from government agents.

Concord Coach Lines Vice President Ben Blunt said that passengers do not have to be American citizens to board its buses.

“Before we knew that video existed, we put a communication out to all our employees covering that ground,” he said. “That employee misspoke. I think he was taken off guard a little bit.”

Border patrol agents are allowed to conduct certain searches and establish immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of the border that they are prohibited from doing elsewhere. As a large city within 93 miles of the closest border crossing to Canada, Bangor is fair game for federal agents seeking people in the country illegally.

Blunt said that Customs and Border Patrol agents routinely question people at the Bangor stop, which is a public space, and have on rare occasions boarded the company’s buses to question passengers.

“The frequency with which we’ve seen them has ramped up within the last six months,” he said. “We’ve reached out to try to get a better understanding, but to be honest with you we continue to have very limited interaction. There’s no partnership or agreement with border patrol, they don’t give us any heads up when they’re coming.”

When asked if Concord Coach Lines would like Customs and Border Patrol agents to stop questioning its passengers, Blunt declined to comment.

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