Greyhound Lines Inc. is no longer allowing U.S. authorities to drop off immigrant families inside bus stations, forcing those who have been released from custody to wait outside until they have a ticket.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that it had been asked to drop off migrants outside facilities instead of busing them in.
ICE for years has dropped off migrants at Greyhound stations, largely in Phoenix, after releasing them pending court hearings, often for asylum. From the stations, they travel to their intended destination in the U.S.
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Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said the company is experiencing an "unprecedented increase of individuals" at certain bus terminals and that travelers need tickets to get in. She said the policy applies to anyone who lacks a ticket.
"Our priority is to safely and efficiently get customers to their destinations," Booker said in a statement.
Immigrants who are released by ICE don't usually have prior notice and can't make travel arrangements until they arrive at the station. Most of them also don't have money and have to wait on a relative or advocacy group to buy their ticket.
A huge number of Central American families have traveled to U.S. in the past few months, many to seek asylum after saying they have fled violence and extreme poverty.
In Arizona alone between Dec. 21, 2018, and March 5, ICE said it had processed for release about 14,500 people who came as families.
The agency relies on volunteer organizations to help the families with travel and meals.
Outside the station Thursday in Phoenix, about 15 adults and five children were waiting in a shaded area near a parking lot. Some said they had been there for about seven hours.