One of the two women picked up a CBP officer who told her that he was holding her for no reason other than hearing her speak in Spanish.
Two women reached an agreement with US Customs and Border Protection after an agent briefly arrested them for speaking Spanish at a supermarket in Havre, Montana.
As LegalReader previously reported, the lawsuit was filed by Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez, both US citizens. The women say their constitutional rights were violated when a border guard detained them in a parking lot for almost an hour while trying to verify their identity.
That official, according to the lawsuit, had no reason to believe that Suda or Hernandez were in the country illegally – he simply made an assumption after talking to them in Spanish.
While customs and border guards agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount, the agency declined to admit liability for wrongdoing. In a statement, the agency claimed that “the vast majority of CBP employees and officers carry out their duties with honor and honor, and work tirelessly every day to protect our country.”
ABC News notes that the confrontation between Suda, Hernandez and CBP agent Paul O’Neill was taped.
Scales of justice. Image via Flickr / User: mikecogh. (CCA-BY-2.0).
According to ABC, Suda decided to tape the encounter after O’Neill followed them into the parking lot of a Town Pump supermarket. When Suda O’Neill asked why she and her friend were arrested and forced to show their ID, the officer replied that he was suspicious of her Spanish language skills.
“Ma’am, the reason I asked for your ID is because I came here and saw that you speak Spanish, which is very unknown up here,” said O’Neill.
In the lawsuit filed against CBP, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alex Rate reported, as O’Neill made it clear, that neither woman was allowed to leave the parking lot. A local customs and border protection officer later arrived and assisted O’Neill. He said the women would be held until their legal status could be verified.
Following the agency’s decision to set up shop, Suda hopes the Customs and Border Protection Agency will reconsider its policies.
“We opposed the government because speaking Spanish is not a reason to be racially profiled and harassed,” said Suda. “I take pride in being bilingual, and I hope that if this happens, CBP will take a close look at its policies and practices. Nobody else should have to go through this again. “
Although the federal government denied any wrongdoing, ABC News notes that the ACLU investigation found that local customs and border guards participated in “routine” race profiling.
“It’s a small place and we have a lot of agents here and nobody is really busy,” a CBP supervisor told ACLU attorneys on a videotape.
The same supervisor recalled walking through a local mall when he overheard two people who “appeared to be of Mexican descent” and spoke Spanish. When he reached for his radio to report the incident, he noticed that another border guard was already following them.
“When someone speaks Spanish down there, it’s like five agents suddenly swarm in: ‘What’s wrong?'” Added the manager.
Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of ACLU-Montana, said Suda and Hernandez faced extensive harassment after sharing their bad experiences with customs and border protection. Both women left Havre to keep their families safe.
2 detained for speaking Spanish
2 women were only arrested because they spoke Spanish. Now they are suing the Border Patrol.
Two US citizens claim in a lawsuit that the government arrested them for speaking Spanish