U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are under fire after a Border Patrol agent detained two American women simply because they were speaking Spanish. The report circulated after the women were detained at a gas station in northern Montana.
The detention of the women arrives at a time when law enforcement in Montana has come under fire for profiling people to determine their immigration status.
Both of the women detained are U.S. citizens but were held in custody for 35 minutes. As Ana Suda asked the agent why she was being detained she filmed the encounter.
“I recorded him admitting that he just [stopped] us because we [were] speaking Spanish, no other reason,” Suda wrote in a Facebook post. “Remember do NOT speak Spanish it sounds like it’s illegal.”
The video of the encounter was first reported by KRTV of Great Falls. In the footage the agent says speaking Spanish “is very unheard of up here.”
Suda told the New York Times that she would be filing a formal complaint with Customs and Border Protection. She also plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union for representation.
Following the reveal, Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jason Givens said the incident is being reviewed to ensure that all appropriate policies were followed.
“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,” Givens’ statement said. “They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.”
Under current rules for the agency, agents can make warrantless stops “within a reasonable distance” of any U.S. border. Federal regulations define a “reasonable distance” as 100 miles under current federal regulations.
The U.S. Border Patrol has recently come under fire for using racial profiling after boarding buses and trains to question people about their citizenship. The Border Patrol has also stopped people at highway checkpoints.
This isn’t the first time agents in the sleepy town of Havre have come under fire. A federal lawsuit is pending after agents detained a pregnant newlywed woman for 24 hours. Both the woman and her husband provided agents with proper documentation showing their right to be in the United States.