SAN BERNARDINO - Immigrant rights advocates on Thursday launched a campaign urging Latino passengers not to ride Greyhound buses.

The community leaders, part of a group known as the Immigration Raids Response Network, say Greyhound closely cooperates with the U.S. Border Patrol to target Latino riders.

The transportation company allows the Border Patrol to conduct immigration checks of riders upon their arrival at the San Bernardino Greyhound bus station located at 596 North G. St., the group says.

At a press conference in front of the station Thursday, activists said they will call for a nationwide boycott of Greyhound if the activities don't stop.

"If companies like Greyhound don't take measures to protect their passengers, they will lose the trust and business one of one of their most faithful customer bases: the Latino community," said Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, which provides legal help to immigrants.

Greyhound issued a statement responding to the group's concerns.

"Greyhound only recently became aware of these practices," said Maureen Richmond, spokeswoman for Dallas, Texas-based Greyhound Lines, Inc. "We plan on reaching out to (immigration) officials for further information. Greyhound seeks to balance the lawful and reasonable activities of law enforcement with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers.


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Immigrant advocates on Thursday also said they will pass out fliers at churches, swap meets and other places frequented by Latinos to advise illegal immigrants of their rights if they are detained.

The fliers urge immigrants to avoid using Greyhound "due to their cooperation with the Border Patrol and the use of racial profiling."

Border Patrol agents have conducted frequent operations at the San Bernardino terminal for about a year, but the activities have increased in recent months, Amaya said.

With the consent of Greyhound security guards, Border Patrol agents board buses and ask riders who appear to be Latinos to show proof that they are in the country legally, Amaya said.

Border Patrol spokesman Keith Croxton said that agents based out of the Border Patrol's Riverside office "routinely" conduct immigration checks at transportation hubs, such as bus stations, and use "roving patrols" on highways.

Border Patrol officials declined to discuss their specific methods for screening bus passengers but denied engaging in racial profiling.

"Racial profiling is not and will not be used by the Department of Homeland Security and all of its component agencies," Croxton said. "That would be counterproductive to our operations. We deal with people from all walks of life from all over the world."

Besides protecting the nation at the ports of entry, the Border Patrol's mission is to stem the flow of drug and human smuggling and illegal entries in the interior of the country, Croxton said.

Daniel Guzman, a 43-year-old San Bernardino resident, said he witnessed Greyhound security working with Border Patrol officers a few months ago.

When a bus arrived from the border city of Calexico at about 10:45 p.m., Guzman said Greyhound guards closed off the boarding area until passengers were checked by immigration officers and the bus was empty.

"They (Border Patrol officers) shouldn't even be here," said Alphonse Romain, a 34-year-old San Bernardino resident. "This is private property. Greyhound has the right to tell them to leave."

Even though the Greyhound terminal is on private property, Croxton said the Border Patrol has the authority to operate there.

"We can go anywhere the public is free to go," he said. "If the public can come and go freely at a public place such as a Greyhound station, so can we. We don't have to request permission from the owner to be there."

The owner can ask for Border Patrol agents to leave, but whether or not they choose to do so is up to agency supervisors, he said.

Under federal immigration law, agents have the authority to conduct a "field interview" to ask basic questions about someone's immigration status, Croxton said. 

"We can arrest that person if the officer has reason to believe that the person that is questioned is here in violation of immigration laws," Croxton said.