You may have heard that the United States Customs and Border Patrol detained two women (Martha Hernandez and Ana Suda) for speaking Spanish in a convenience store in Montana. Needless to say this didn’t go unnoticed and garnered some press at the time but more recently lead the American Civil Liberties Union to sue.
A bit of the back story…seems a little contrived:
After they showed the agent their valid Montana driver’s licenses, he briefly detained them in the store’s parking lot, the suit contends. The women then began to film the encounter on their phones, and asked the agent on video why they were being stopped.
“Ma’am the reason I asked you for your ID is I came in here and I saw you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent said, looking into the camera.
One of the women then asked if they had been stopped because of their “racial profiles.”
“No, it has nothing to do with that,” he replied, according to the video. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it is predominantly English speaking, O.K.?”
Now this took place in Havre, Montana…quite a distance from Latin America…so Spanish may have been unusual there…but I wouldn’t think unheard of…particularly since the women had Montana drivers licenses.
But why are their Border Patrol officers in Montana? Because they have the authority to work within 100 miles of an international border. And Havre is about 35 miles from Canada. Keep that bit of trivia in your memory for just a moment…because here’s where it gets ironically interesting:
During their detention, several more agents, including Mr. O’Neal’s supervisor, arrived on the scene, according to the suit.
Ms. Suda asked the supervisor, who was not identified by name in the lawsuit, if they would have been detained if they had been speaking French.
“No,” he replied, according to the lawsuit. “We don’t do that.”
Now recall that bit of fact from your memory…they are 35 miles from Canada…but wouldn’t find it suspicious for people to be speaking French.
OTOH: they probably know that no self-respecting Quebecois would be caught dead in Montana.