Ana Suda, 37, and her friend Mimi Hernandez, both U.S. citizens , were questioned and detained by a U.S. Border Patrol agent because they were chatting in Spanish as they went to buy eggs and milk around midnight Wednesday in Havre, a small town about 35 miles from the Canadian border, at a northern Montana gas station.
Both are Mexican-American and speak fluent Spanish. Hernandez was born in central California and Suda in El Paso, Texas. ” Ma'am, 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," the agent, who identified himself as Agent O'Neill, said. Fact „has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it's predominantly English-speaking," he added. The agent took their IDs and kept them in the parking lot for about 35 to 40 minutes. One of the women recorded the incident on the cell phone.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said agents cannot stop or detain someone solely on their race or ethnicity. "Decisions to question individuals are based on a variety of factors for which Border Patrol agents are well-trained," he added. The incident was being reviewed to make sure appropriate policies were followed. Suda said she is reaching out to the American Civil Liberties Union to see if they can take any action after the incident.