On April 2, several dozen demonstrators gathered in front of Penn Station in Manhattan to protest the collaboration of the Amtrak train company with border and immigration agents who arrest passengers traveling between US cities. With chants of “transportation, not deportation!” and “immigrant rights are human rights,” the protesters then marched to Port Authority to condemn the Greyhound bus company’s collaboration with similar immigration sweeps.
The protest was organized by Families for Freedom, a New York-based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation. The protesters are demanding that Amtrak and Greyhound at the very least warn passengers about the raids in advance, publicly apologize and provide ticket refunds to those who have been arrested. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, April 3; demonstration announcement from Families for Freedom, received via e-mail, March 26; Immigration News Briefs editor’s first-hand experience of demonstration, April 2)
A woman named Sonia, who spoke at the demonstration, said she was arrested by immigration officials along with her husband and two sons while returning to New York City from Chicago on Amtrak as the train passed through upstate New York. She spoke about the terror of being grilled by immigration officials and separated from her family. “This
is the last thing I expected coming home. They seemed to be approaching all of the Latinos on the train and asking them for papers. One family even had work permits but immigration officials told them that this was not enough and they were detained also. I’m a customer, I paid just like everyone else, but my family and I were treated like we are less than human beings,” Sonia said. After being detained at the Amtrak station, Sonia and her 17-year-old son were released while her husband and 18-year-old son were detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility for several days before being freed on bond. (Families for Freedom press release, April 2; EFE, April 2)
Amtrak has agreed to cooperate with border inspections on a random basis within 75 miles of the border, said Cliff Cole, a spokesperson for the company. “We’re merely facilitating their request to board the train,” he said of the Border Patrol agents. The train between Chicago and New York, called the Lakeshore Limited, passes within 75 miles of the border, he said. Greyhound also said it simply complies with law enforcement requests, be it local, state or federal. “We are under no obligation to inform customers of law enforcement activity at any time,” said Greyhound spokesperson Dustin Clark.
Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, said the stops are just part of routine practice that has gotten more frequent as the agency has tripled its number of agents along the Canadian border over the past few years. (New York Times Cityroom blog, April 2)
From Immigration News Briefs, April 6
See our last post on the politics of immigration.