Seven Florida Democrats have joined over a dozen congressional lawmakers in a joint statement that condemned an immigration check performed by Border Patrol officers in Fort Lauderdale on January 19.
"We were appalled to see U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents abusing their mandate and authority to arbitrarily board a bus to demand that all passengers produce identification and documentation," Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Darren Soto, Al Lawson and Kathy Cator wrote in a joint statement Friday.
According to CBP, the agency that oversees Border Patrol, agents boarded a Greyhound Bus that day to perform an "immigration inspection." They found a woman who had overstayed a tourist visa, arrested her, and escorted her off the bus, CBP said.
A video of the encounter posted over the weekend drew outrage from immigration activists.
"Proof of citizenship is NOT required to ride a bus!" the advocacy group Florida Immigrant Coalition wrote in a tweet that included a video of the officers performing the check.
But CBP argued that it was well within its rights to perform the inspection.
"Border Patrol agents routinely conduct law enforcement activities at transportation hubs as part of a layered approach to preventing illegal aliens from traveling further into the United States," the agency said in a statement.
A recent Miami Herald story explained that, although transportation checks seem extraordinary, Border Patrol has conducted them for years.
Still, the Florida Democrats wrote the inspection was uncalled for.
"Arbitrary and disruptive enforcement actions like this do not make our communities safer. Rather, they waste taxpayer resources, cruelly dehumanize people who have not committed any crimes, and erode our fundamental rights," the lawmakers wrote.
The flap comes at a precarious time for national immigration policy, as Democrats and Republicans try to find a path forward on crucial issues like DREAMer citizenship, border security and chain migration.
Nowhere are those issues more relevant than Florida, home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, documented and not.
Read the lawmakers' full joint statement here.