Two US Citizens Detained For Speaking Spanish At Montana Gas Station

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“The reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”

 

In President Donald Trump’s America, even speaking Spanish can apparently land you in trouble.

According to The Washington Post, two U.S. citizens were detained and questioned by a Border Patrol agent for nearly an hour after he overheard them speaking Spanish while waiting in the checkout line at a small town gas station in Montana.

Ana Suda, who was born in El Paso, Texas, said she and her friend Mimi Hernandez, who is from central California, had stopped at a store in Havre, less than an hour from the Canadian border, to pick up some milk and eggs. That’s when an officer, who identified himself as “Agent O’Neal,” approached them and asked for their IDs.

“I was next in line when I heard my friend say something in Spanish and then I looked and a Border Patrol agent was behind me,” Suda told ABC-7. “He asked where I was born, so I looked at him and I said, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s, like, ‘Yes, I'm serious,’ but, you know, with a very authoritative voice.”

Feeling uncomfortable, the 37-year-old began filming the incident.

“Sir, can you tell us in the video why you asked us for our IDs, please?” Suda asked the agent in the video, to which he responded: “Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your IDs is because I came in here and saw you were speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”

When Suda inquired if she and her friend were being racially profiled, the officer’s answer was less than satisfactory.

“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent told her. “It's the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it's predominantly English-speaking.”

Although the women showed the officer their IDs, Suda claimed he kept them waiting in the parking lot for about “35 to 40 minutes.” They stayed there until about 1 a.m.

“I was so embarrassed...being outside in the gas station, and everybody’s looking at you like you’re doing something wrong. I don’t think speaking Spanish is something criminal, you know?” Suda told The Washington Post. “My friend, she started crying. She didn’t stop crying in the truck. And I told her, we are not doing anything wrong.”

When she finally got home, Suda uploaded the video of her appalling encounter with the Border Patrol agent up on Facebook.

“It's a nice town. I don't think it's a confrontational [population] here,” she said of her town. “But now I feel like if I speak Spanish, somebody is going to say something to me. It's different after something like this because you start thinking and thinking.”

Suda is now planning to pursue a lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. She said it wasn’t just for her – it was for her daughter and her community as well.

“I have a daughter, she's 7-years-old and she speaks Spanish and English perfectly with no accent,” she added. “I want my daughter to be able to speak Spanish if she wants to without feeling bad.”

Meanwhile, the law enforcement agency also issued a statement to KRTV.

“Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities and are not limited to a specific geography within the United States,” the Customs and Border Protection agency said. “They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.”

Unsurprisingly, social media users had a lot to say about Suda and Hernandez’s unfortunate experience.

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year, former Montana Labor Department legal secretary Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts was hailed a hero for stepping down after realizing he would have to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with hunting down and deporting undocumented immigrants.

 

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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