The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two women who were detained by Border Patrol agents in a convenience store last May for speaking Spanish.
According to a press release from ACLU, Ana Suda and Marta Hernandez were standing in line at the store when a Border Patrol agent came up to them, commented on Hernandez’s accent and asked them where they were born. They told them California and Texas.
The ACLU claims that the agent then ordered the two women to show identification. The women, who are U.S. citizens, showed them their valid Montana driver’s licenses. The agent still, however, detained them in the parking lot.
As the women video recorded the agent, they asked him why he targeted them. He said that it “has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking.”
The ACLU also wrote that even though the two women and their families have lived in the area for years, they have been shunned and harrassed by residents in the town. Suda said that her daughter is now scared to speak Spanish.
Suda told MTN News that she is fine with the Border Patrol agents doing their job, but what she and the other women experienced was profiling.
“He asked where we were born so I said, ‘Are you serious?’ He was like, ‘Yes, I am very serious.’ I said I was born in El Paso, Texas, and my friend said she was born in El Centro, California,” Suda said.
Suda says that she asked the agent for her ID back after about 17 minutes, but he told her no. She considered herself detained at that point. Suda and the other women were let go 35 minutes later.
The lawsuit cites violations of the Fourth Amendment because there wasn’t a legitimate reason to detain the women; and of equal protection because the agent singled out the women base on race.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently block CBP from stopping and detaining people based on race, accent or speaking Spanish.