The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Thursday against United States Customs and Border Protection on behalf of two American women who were stopped last spring in a small Montana city by a border agent who said he was asking for their identification because he heard them speaking Spanish.
The border agent, identified in the lawsuit as Paul A. O’Neal, stopped the women, Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez, inside a convenience store in Havre, Mont., late on May 16, 2018.
The lawsuit alleges that he commented on Ms. Hernandez’s accent, calling it “very strong,” and then asked where they were born. Ms. Hernandez was born in California and Ms. Suda in Texas, the A.C.L.U. said.
When the women expressed shock at the agent’s question, he told them he was “dead serious” and asked to see their identification, the lawsuit alleges.
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. [Continue reading…]