Video shows immigration agents searching bus in Fort Lauderdale

Activists worried about stepped-up efforts to detain undocumented immigrants

By Neki Mohan - Anchor/Reporter, Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Immigration activists are seeking answers after a video shows federal agents asking riders aboard a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale for proof of citizenship.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition said a woman was pulled from the bus Friday. The woman's family said she is currently being held at the Broward Transitional Center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Pompano Beach.

"What's really outrageous and troublesome about it is that this is a bus that’s traveling from Orlando to Miami. The majority of people traveling those distances aren't normally prepared to furnish information proving their citizenship," said Melissa Taveras, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Tavares said the video went viral after the coalition posted it on its Facebook page.

In the video, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents zero in on an elderly woman, who witnesses said had a Caribbean accent. The agents question her and ask her to remove her belongings and leave the bus.

"Why was she singled out? Why did they approach her? So now ... we are looking at racial profiling," Taveras said. "In light of the facts, what else would you assume?"

Federal law allows authorities to stop and search buses if agents believe a person is aboard who is not permitted to stay in the U.S.

Lanesha Gipson, a spokeswoman for Greyhound Lines Inc., said the company is required to cooperate with authorities when they ask to board buses or enter stations.

"Unfortunately, even routine transportation checks negatively impact our operations and some customers directly," Gipson said. "We encourage anyone with concerns about what happened to reach out directly to these agencies."

Many riders couldn't believe what they were seeing.

Taveras said the woman's family was worried after she did not arrive at her destination. 

Representatives for ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection were not able to be reached for comment because of the shutdown of the federal government. 

The incident comes just a few weeks after federal agents targeted 7-Eleven stores around the country, including several in South Florida, in an attempt to find undocumented workers.

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