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Spokane vs. the Border Patrol: How Immigration Agents Stake Out a City Bus Station

December 17, 2019 (1 min read)

Amy Martyn, The Intercept, Dec. 10, 2019

"“THE WHOLE WALL thing, I think that’s what really beefed it up,” the Greyhound bus driver told me at the end of her shift. She was referring to the sudden increase in Border Patrol agents boarding buses and pulling passengers off for questioning in Spokane — a friendly, midsize city on the eastern edge of Washington state, and nobody’s idea of a border town.

Amid the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement crackdown, the Border Patrol has stepped up raids on Greyhound buses nationwide, combatting what the agency claims is a “growing threat” of “alien smuggling and drug trafficking organizations to move people, narcotics, and contraband to interior destinations.”

The Spokane bus station would hardly seem to be a hotbed of such activity. Next door to an Air Force base and home to Gonzaga University, Spokane is predominately white and politically conservative compared to stereotypes of the Pacific Northwest. Ask about life along the border, and people may assume you are referring to the border with Idaho.

Nonetheless, three or four days a week, Border Patrol agents from the Spokane sector — a unit tasked with guarding 300 miles of “rugged and often remote” frontier between the U.S. and Canada — cruise through downtown Spokane a little after 4 p.m. They’re on their way to meet evening buses from the Spokane Intermodal Center, as the bus depot is called."