Border Patrol Detained Two U.S. Citizens For 'Speaking Spanish' at Gas Station

Two women, who are both U.S. citizens, claim that a Border Patrol agent detained them at a gas station in Montana last week for speaking Spanish.

Early on Wednesday morning, Ana Suda, 37, and her friend Mimi Hernandez, drove to the gas station in Havre to buy some eggs and milk. Suda said she and Hernandez were speaking in Spanish with each other in the checkout line when a uniformed Border Patrol officer stopped them to check for identification.

"We were just talking, and then I was going to pay," Suda told The Washington 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.'"

Havre
Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez, two U.S. citizens, were detained at a gas station in Montana on Wednesday morning for "speaking Spanish." Screenshot

After he said this, Suda started filming the encounter on her cellphone. In the footage, Suda can be heard asking the agent why he was arresting them and he replied it was because they were speaking Spanish.

"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 in the video.

Suda then asked the man if they were being racially profiled. He denied the allegation. "It has nothing to do with that," the agent said. "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 claims that the agent kept them in the parking lot for approximately 30 to 40 minutes after he saw their identification cards. The incident ended at around 1 a.m.

"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? My friend, she started crying. She didn't stop crying in the truck. And I told her, we are not doing anything wrong," said Suda.

After she got home, Suda took to Facebook to tell her story about the incident at the gas station. The post was shared multiple times and eventually was picked up by a local news outlet.

Suda said her 7-year-old daughter was unsure whether they should be speaking Spanish in public anymore after watching the video. "I have a daughter, she's 7 years old and she speaks Spanish and English perfectly with no accent. I want my daughter to be able to speak Spanish if she wants to without feeling bad," Suda told ABC-7.

In a statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said the incident was under review to ensure the officer acted appropriately.

"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," they 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."

Havre is a town just 35 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.

Watch Suda's cellphone footage below: