In Montana, Border Patrol Detains Two Women For Speaking Spanish In Public

Two U.S. citizens in Havre, Montana were targeted by a CBP officer for speaking Spanish in a convenient store.

Ana Suda, writing for Common Dreams explains that she was detained for speaking Spanish in public in Havre, Montana. In May, she and a friend were illegally targeted and detained by a Customs and Border Protection agent because they spoke Spanish in a convenience store.

Suda moved to Havre, a town on the U.S-Canada border, in 2014 with her husband and two children. She says the incident in May changed her life.

She and her friend Mimi were at the Town Pump, a convenience store, waiting in line to purchase their eggs and milk. A Border Patrol agent stood behind them, which was not surprising to either Mimi or Ana, as the town had a lot of Border Patrol.

Mimi said a friendly hello to the agent. In response, he noted that she had a strong accent, and then asked where the two of them were born.

Ana asked, “Are you serious?” The agent responded that he was “dead serious.”

Both Mimi and Ana were born in the U.S.; Mimi in Texas and Ana in California. They both grew up speaking Spanish. They told the officer this, and he demanded that they show him identification. They both offered their Montana driver’s licenses and then went outside with him, as he directed.

As Ana and Mimi stood holding their groceries, Agent O’Neal got on his car radio to ask for backup. Ana pulled out her cell phone and told the Agent that she was going to start recording him. She asked, “Can you tell us in video why you asked for our ID’s please?” He answered, “You guys are speaking Spanish which is very unheard of up here.”

More Border Patrol vehicles joined O’Neal’s. Ana asked O’Neal’s supervisor if she would have been detained for speaking French. He said, “No, we don’t do that.”

Although Ana and Mimi protested that they needed to get back to their families, and reminded the officers that they were American citizens with rights, the agents would not return the IDs. After about 40 minutes, the women were given their IDs back and told that they could leave.

Ana’s video was picked up by the news. Since then, her family and Mimi’s have been harassed because the two women spoke out. At his high school, Mimi’s son was asked by his teacher if he had brought his ID to class. Ana’s daughter is now afraid to speak in Spanish.

Mimi and Ana are now suing the CBP for violating their rights as American people to ensure that this type of incident never happens again.