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Dartmouth Coach operator stops allowing immigration searches on buses without warrants

  • A Concord Coach Lines bus loads up at the station on Stickney Ave. on Thursday, February 20, 2020.

Staff report
Published: 2/28/2020 10:50:20 PM
Modified: 2/29/2020 2:37:20 PM

CONCORD — Concord Coach Lines will no longer allow federal immigration agents to conduct warrantless searches of its buses, the company announced late on Friday.

The regional passenger carrier — which operates Lebanon-based Dartmouth Coach — reversed its earlier stance of allowing routine checks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents following a similar turnaround by the Greyhound bus company.

“The safety of our passengers is not something that we take lightly,” Concord Coach Lines Vice President Benjamin Blunt said in a statement. “We have understood the arguments for making this change, but have worked to fully understand the implications that a change would have on law enforcement’s ability to prevent all forms of criminal behavior. We are confident that this is the right thing to do.”

Earlier this month, a Customs and Border Protection memo obtained by The Associated Press confirmed that bus companies do not have to allow Border Patrol agents on board without a warrant, contrary to Greyhound’s long insistence that it had no choice in the matter.

The CBP memo forced a reckoning by Greyound and other companies. In the days after it was publicized in mid-February, Blunt told the Concord Monitor that “some degree of police presence is a matter of public safety, and our drivers should not play the role of a judge in determining probable cause regarding law enforcement actions.”

However, by this past weekend, company officials said they were reconsidering their policy. And in Friday’s announcement, Blunt said the policy change came in the wake of a review of that memo and followed Greyhound’s lead.

“Both Greyhound and the American Bus Association have recently revised their policies, and while we feel that the safety and security of all Concord Coach Lines passengers should be our primary focus, we also believe it is important to be consistent with our bus industry partners,” he said.

Blunt said Concord Coach Lines employees “have been equipped with cards that will communicate this denial to Border Patrol Agents,” and that “for reasons of safety, our employees have been instructed not to physically impede an agent from boarding a bus if they have other lawful grounds or otherwise insist on boarding.”

ACLU chapters in New Hampshire and Maine — where Concord Coach Lines has connections, in addition to the Upper Valley and New York City — applauded the decision, which they have long pushed for.

“With this new policy, Concord Coach is doing the right thing and disallowing Border Patrol from conducting warrantless searches of their passengers,” SangYeob Kim, immigration staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in a statement. “We commend Concord Coach for their swift handling of this issue.”




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