Video shows a Border Patrol agent detaining two women for speaking Spanish

Video shows a Border Patrol agent detaining two women for speaking Spanish

A video has gone viral on social media this week, which appears to show a Border Patrol agent unjustly detaining two women, simply because they were speaking Spanish. The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday May 16, outside a gas station convenience store in the town of Havre, Montana, which stands near the US/Canada border. The footage has already attracted thousands of comments and provoked questions about racial profiling.

The video was captured by Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez, who were buying some groceries together. Both of the Latina-American women spoke fluent Spanish and had been conversing amicably and civilly while waiting in line with their respective purchases. That was when a uniformed Border Patrol agent interrupted the two and requested to see their IDs. Then he decided to detain them, apparently not satisfied that the two weren't illegal immigrants. The agent asked the two women to follow him to the parking lot, and Suda became so nervous that she began filming the man in question.

When questioned as to why they had been stopped, the agent admitted it was because he had heard them speaking Spanish. In the video, he can be heard denying any racial profiling, yet still he states: "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 ... It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking." The two women were detained in the parking lot for a further 40 minutes before the agent was sufficiently satisfied to let them both go. 

In a later interview, Suda stated: "I was so embarrassed … being outside in the gas station, and everybody’s looking at you like you’re doing something wrong. I don’t think speaking Spanish is something criminal, you know? My friend, she started crying. She didn’t stop crying in the truck. And I told her, 'we are not doing anything wrong' ... It’s a nice town. I don’t think it’s a confrontational [population] here ... But now I feel like if I speak Spanish, somebody is going to say something to me. It’s different after something like this because you start thinking and thinking ... I just don’t want this to happen anymore. I want people to know they have the right to speak whatever language they want. I think that’s the most important part, to help somebody else."

As a result, Suda has announced her intention to contact the American Civil Liberties Union for legal aid, and a representative from Customs and Border Patrol has stated that the agency is reviewing the incident and will investigate any potential wrongdoing.