“I didn’t understand what was happening, why they were keeping me, where they were taking me, or when I’d be able to see my family.”—Andres Sosa Segura

June 25, 2019

A man whom U.S. Border Patrol agents unlawfully detained for hours as he was attempting to travel by bus from Montana to his home in Washington is suing the agency for violating his rights.

The ACLU of Washington (ACLU-WA) and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) filed a lawsuit today against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) on behalf of the detained man, Andres Sosa Segura. The FTCA allows people to sue for monetary damages for wrongful conduct by federal government employees. Mr. Sosa’s claims against CBP include false arrest and false imprisonment.

In July 2017, while Mr. Sosa was on his entirely domestic bus route home, Border Patrol agents singled him out as the only Latinx-appearing passenger on his Greyhound bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center. Agents stopped Mr. Sosa while he was transferring buses, demanded his “papers,” and escalated their detention after he showed them a “know your rights” card.

Although the agents had no reason to believe Mr. Sosa had violated any federal laws, they ordered him outside the station for further interrogation, put him in their vehicle, and drove him to a facility about an hour away—where he was locked in a cell without access to a phone for several hours before being released.

“It was scary,” said Mr. Sosa, “I was just trying to get home. I didn’t understand what was happening, why they were keeping me, where they were taking me, or when I’d be able to see my family.” Not only was Mr. Sosa terrified, he missed his bus home and his wife was forced to drive nearly five hours across the state to pick him up.

Mr. Sosa’s unlawful arrest and imprisonment was in direct response to his attempt to exercise his rights.  His attorney had given him a card describing his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney, among other rights, and had instructed him to use the card if he was ever stopped by law enforcement.  But when he showed the card to the agents, they stated that Mr. Sosa must be “illegal” because he had the card and continued to detain him.

“When agents of the federal government don’t obey the constitution, all of our rights are at risk,” said ACLU-WA Staff Attorney, Lisa Nowlin, “A ticket on Greyhound is not a waiver of your  constitutional rights and the bus station in Spokane is not a constitution-free zone.”

“Mr. Sosa did the right thing by displaying the card. Respecting a person’s right to remain silent is one of our most basic expectations of law enforcement and immigration enforcement officers must comply with the law,” said Leila Kang, Staff Attorney for NWIRP.

The incident is related to ongoing discriminatory activity by Border Patrol agents in and around Spokane, which is about 100 miles from the Canadian border. Border Patrol agents regularly target and interrogate people riding Greyhound buses at the Spokane Intermodal Center. The ACLU and NWIRP recently filed a similar administrative claim on behalf of Mohanad Elshieky, who was detained by Border Patrol on a Greyhound bus, even after he provided agents with evidence of his legal status as an asylee. 

The unwarranted intimidation of Greyhound bus passengers by CBP miles from any international border is concerning: “The pattern of Border Patrol intimidation in Spokane does nothing to make us safer and has nothing to do with cross-border travel,” said ACLU-WA’s Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel, Enoka Herat.

Border Patrol is a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Mr. Sosa’s attorneys submitted an administrative claim to CBP on June 20, 2018. Because the agency did not issue a decision within the required six-month period, the administrative claim is considered denied and Mr. Sosa is permitted to sue in court. Mr. Sosa then filed this complaint under the FTCA.

Mr. Sosa is represented by Lisa Nowlin of the ACLU-WA, Matt Adams, Leila Kang, and Aaron Korthius of NWIRP, and cooperating attorneys Kenneth E. Payson, Sara A. Fairchild, and Jennifer K. Chung of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

For filings and other case documents visit: https://www.aclu-wa.org/cases/cbp-spokane-federal-tort-claim-sosa

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