Detained speaking Spanish, demanded they show identification.
On their way home from working out at a gym last May, Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez, both U.S. citizens, stopped by a local convenience store in Montana to buy some milk and eggs.
A Border Patrol agent overheard the two friends speaking Spanish, and then demanded they show identification.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on their behalf, accusing Customs and Border Protection of violating the women’s constitutional rights.
The encounter is not an isolated incident but part of a broader pattern of abusive behavior by Border Patrol agents who target people based on race, ethnicity or language, lawyers for the ACLU contend.
“The problem with that is that there are millions and millions of people who are Spanish speakers who are U.S. citizens or who are otherwise lawfully in the U.S., so knowing that somebody speaks Spanish doesn’t tell you anything about whether they are or not undocumented, said Cody Wofsy, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Immigrants’ Rights Project in San Francisco. “That is exactly the kind of assumption that this case shows is problematic.”
Suda and Hernandez were both born in the U.S., Suda in El Paso, Texas, and Hernandez in El Centro, California.
They grew up speaking Spanish and are fluent in English and Spanish.
Hernandez moved to Havre, Montana, in 2010, Suda in 2014. They work as certified nurse assistants at the Northern Montana Care Center in Havre, a town of about 10,000 people in north-central Montana near the Canadian border.