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Immigration Law

Border Patrol Agrees to Two $35,000 Settlements in Racial Profiling, Unlawful Detention Cases

NWIRP, Apr. 29, 2021

"The United States has agreed to pay two men $35,000 each in settlements after they were wrongfully detained and interrogated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in separate incidents at the Intermodal Center, a bus station in Spokane, Washington.

The 2017 and 2019 detentions of Andres Sosa Segura and Mohanad Elshieky were part of a pattern of discriminatory behavior by Border Patrol agents, in which agents regularly targeted people of color who were riding Greyhound buses at the Spokane Intermodal Center and interrogated them about their immigration status. Following their separate unlawful detentions, Mr. Sosa and Mr. Elshieky each filed a federal lawsuit for the violation of their rights. They were represented in the lawsuit by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, and the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

In Mr. Sosa’s case, he was traveling home to his wife and children in Washington from Montana in 2017, when CBP agents stopped him — and only him — as he tried to transfer buses. The agents demanded Mr. Sosa’s “papers,” and then escalated the issue when Mr. Sosa presented them with a “Know Your Rights” card and invoked his right to an attorney. Despite Mr. Sosa’s attempt to invoke his rights, and even after a records check showed that Mr. Sosa was already in pending immigration proceedings, the CBP agents arrested him. The agents then drove him to a facility 90 minutes away for further interrogation, holding him for several hours before finally releasing him. The incident caused Mr. Sosa to miss his bus home and his wife was forced to drive several hours to pick him up.

“The hours I spent detained for no reason were terrifying, and all I wanted was to be with my family,” said Mr. Sosa. “I hope nobody ever has to go through something like this again. I hope that this case sends a message that CBP agents need to respect the rights of people like me.”

In a separate incident, Mr. Elshieky, a professional comedian and asylee from Libya, was returning to his home in Portland in 2019 when agents ordered him off a Greyhound bus during a layover at the station. Mr. Elshieky had recently been granted asylum in the United States, yet despite producing multiple documents proving his lawful presence in the country, CBP agents pulled him off the bus, detained him, and called him an “illegal,” alleging his documents were fake. Records checks conducted by the agents showed their unfounded allegations were false.

“To have the same government that is supposed to protect me accuse me of lying and being here illegally really shook me and undermined my hard-fought sense of safety,” said Mr. Elshieky. “I’ll never forget the harassment and humiliation by the officers when it was clear I belonged in the United States and on that bus. I hope my experience can at least be a wake-up call for others, and a lesson for CBP and its agents to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and to honor their rights.”

The lawsuits have also played an important role in holding the Border Patrol accountable to its own policies. During the litigation, the United States produced an agency memorandum dated January 28, 2020, that states CBP agents must receive permission from the bus company or bus driver before boarding buses and cannot temporarily detain persons at bus stations without reasonable suspicion. This is counter to past practices and the CBP agents’ actions in these cases, where CBP agents questioned and detained people on buses and at bus stations without regard to their constitutional rights.

“No one should have to endure what Mr. Sosa and Mr. Elshieky went through while simply trying to travel home,” said Lisa Nowlin, staff attorney for the ACLU of Washington. “The racial profiling and harassment they experienced speaks to the broader need for change in the way CBP’s agents interact with people.”

“Our clients brought these cases in part to deter similar abuses from occurring in the future,” said Aaron Korthuis, an attorney from the Northwest Immigrant Right Project. “We hope that CBP will reexamine its troubled history at the Intermodal Center, and avoid future abuses targeting people at Spokane’s bus station.”

“Absolutely no one, regardless of where they come from, their race, religion, immigration status, or accent deserve to be threatened, racially profiled, or be subject to warrantless bus raids,” said Jennyfer Mesa from Latinos en Spokane. “Border Patrol has given our city an ill repute and wasted taxpayer’s money. We hope that our local elected officials who have supported these acts in the past can learn from these cases.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Jennifer K. Chung, Benjamin J. Robbins, Kenneth Payson, Arleen Fernandez, Jordan Harris, and Sam Alvarez of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Aaron Korthuis, Matt Adams, and Margot Adams of the Northwest Immigrant Right Project; and Lisa Nowlin of the ACLU of Washington.

Read more about these cases online at our impact litigation page."