New law requires federal agents to get a warrant to conduct searches in the boarding areas of the city’s bus station

October 23, 2018

A new law in Spokane requires immigration enforcement agents to stay out of non-public areas of city-owned property unless they have a warrant from a judge.

The ordinance, which city councilmembers passed 6-1, requires federal immigration enforcement agents to get a warrant from a judge to set foot on non-public areas of city-owned property. This includes the bus-boarding areas of the Intermodal Center, Spokane’s bus station. 

Spokane created the law in response to armed, suspicionless searches—often targeting people of color—conducted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP or Border Patrol) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on Greyhound buses traveling between entirely domestic destinations.

“By fighting back against a pattern of racial discrimination by Border Patrol and ICE, which does nothing to make the community safer and has nothing to do with cross-border travel or criminal activity, Spokane is safeguarding an important civil right,” said ACLU-WA Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel Enoka Herat. “Regardless of where they come from, their race, or religion, residents and visitors to Spokane have a right to travel without the threat of intimidation, delay, or racial profiling.”

Spokane is 97 air miles from the U.S.-Canada border, yet federal immigration agents have an outsized impact on life in the city. In May, Border Patrol re-opened a long-shuttered station in Spokane, adding 30 agents to the area. Over the summer, Spokane elected officials, concerned that people would not seek services if they thought they might be questioned by Border Patrol, scuttled plans to locate housing, behavioral health and other community services at the Intermodal Center.

“Hundreds of Latinx people from Central Washington travel through Spokane to work, to visit, send their children to college, and shop. They shouldn’t have to face Border Patrol’s intimidation, harassment and profiling based on the color of their skin or strength of their accent,” said Jennyfer Mesa, a Latinx activist who coordinated “know your rights” efforts at the Intermodal center.

In June, the ACLU-WA and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act on behalf of 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.

Andres Sosa Segura was singled out as the only Latinx-appearing passenger on his Greyhound bus on an entirely domestic route. 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. This is the type of suspicionless, unwarranted interrogation that this ordinance was created to prevent.

Groups that advocated for the law, which passed Oct. 22, include: Center for Justice, Crimson Group, Global Neighborhood, Greater Spokane Progress, Latinos en Spokane, Mujeres in Action, Spokane NAACP, OneAmerica, Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane, Raiz, Pride Foundation, Spokane Community Against Racism, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, and Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network.

Stay Informed