Two U.S. citizens in a small Montana town town said they were questioned and detained by a Border Patrol agent for up to 40 minutes because they were heard speaking Spanish.
Ana Suda, 37, told the Washington Post she and friend Mimi Hernandez, both Mexican-Americans, ran out to a gas station convenience store for milk and eggs just after midnight in Havre, Montana, Wednesday and started conversing in Spanish while waiting to pay.
That’s when she says a Border Patrol agent took interest in them and asked for Suda’s ID.
In a video she started taping as they moved to the parking lot, she asks the agent—who says his name is “Agent O’Neal”—why they were detained, and he replies, “I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”
Suda said they were held up for about 35 to 40 minutes and that Hernandez started crying.
Suda posted about the incident on Facebook, and it soon started making the rounds on social media, according to KVIA, a TV station in El Paso, Suda was born.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro tweeted, “Way to go, Border Patrol agent. Terrible judgment,” in response to the incident.
A Customs and Border Protection representative told the Post the agency is looking into the incident and that “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.” Havre is 35 miles or so south of the US-Canadian border.
For Suda, who said she’ll be taking legal action, the worst part is how her 7-year-old daughter reacted. “When she saw the video, she was like, ‘Mom, we can’t speak Spanish anymore?’ I said, ‘No. You be proud. You are smart. You speak two languages,’” Suda says.