Donald Trump’s America continues to be grimy as usual, especially to those perceived to be immigrants, and this time, a Montana border agent has acknowledged on camera that he only stopped and questioned two women at a local gas station because he overheard them speaking Spanish to each other.
The Washington Post reports that the encounter occurred early Wednesday morning at a convenience store in Havre, Mont., near the Canadian border.
Ana Suda told the Post that she and her friend Mimi Hernandez—both of whom are Mexican American—ran to the store to pick up eggs and milk and were speaking to each other in Spanish while waiting in line to pay.
That was when a uniformed Border Patrol agent interrupted them and asked for their IDs.
“We were just talking, and then I was going to pay,” Suda told the Post. “I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’”
Suda, immediately recognizing the situation for what it was, felt uncomfortable and began recording the incident. In the video, Suda asked the agent to repeat, once more, why he was detaining them.
Do you know that this man didn’t even hesitate?
“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,” the agent said, facing the camera boldly.
Suda asked whether or not they were being racially profiled, to which the agent responded no, but ... I think he needs to check the definition of profiling.
“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent, who simply gave the name O’Neal, insisted. “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.”
Suda, 37, was born in El Paso, Texas, but was raised across the border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the Post notes, while Hernandez is originally from central California.
The women explained this to the agent and readily showed him their IDs, but Suda said that they were still detained in the parking lot of the store for 35-40 minutes.
Suda said that she and Hernandez were both left upset by the incident.
“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?” Suda said. “My friend, she started crying. She didn’t stop crying in the truck. And I told her we are not doing anything wrong.”
The incident also left Suda’s 7-year-old daughter shaken. According to Suda, when the little girl saw the local news reports about the encounter, she wondered if she wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish in public anymore.
“She speaks Spanish and she speaks English,” Suda said. “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.’ This is more for her.”
As the Post reports, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is reviewing the encounter to make sure protocol was followed.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States,” the agency said. “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. They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.”
Suda, in the meantime, is planning to reach out to the American Civil Liberties Union for legal guidance.
“I just don’t want this to happen anymore,” Suda said. “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.”