Border Agent Questions Two American Women for Speaking Spanish
Customs and Border Protection officials are reviewing an encounter between a Border Patrol agent and two women who were speaking Spanish at a gas station in northern Montana. Allegations have been made before of law-enforcement officers in Montana racially profiling people to find out their immigration status.
The women, U.S. citizens, said the agent detained them for about 35 minutes Wednesday in Havre, a small city about 30 miles from the Canada border.
One of the women, Ana Suda, asked the agent why he asked for their identifications.
"I recorded him admitting that he just stop(ped) us because we (were) speaking Spanish, no other reason," Suda wrote in a Facebook post published early Wednesday. "Remember do NOT speak Spanish sounds like is illegal."
In Suda's video of the encounter, the agent says speaking Spanish "is very unheard of up here." She told The New York Times that she plans to file a formal complaint. She told the Washington Post that she planned to contact the American Civil Liberties Union for legal advice. ACLU of Montana legal director Alex Rate said Monday that he hadn't heard from the women yet.
"The facts are troubling," Rate said.
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. They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.