HAVRE, Mont. – First a lawyer took issue with two women speaking Spanish in a New York City eatery. Now two US citizens in the Montana town of Havre have had the same experience—but this time the person with the issue was a Border Patrol agent.
Ana Suda, 37, tells 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 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, per KVIA. Among those who’ve weighed in: former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who tweeted, “Way to go, Border Patrol agent. Terrible judgment.”
A Customs and Border Protection rep tells the Post it’s 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 says she’ll be taking legal action, perhaps 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.
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