Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Two women detained for speaking Spanish win lawsuit against Trump administration

Two years ago, two Latina women, Martha Hernandez and Ana Suda, were detained for speaking Spanish outside a convenient store in Montana. They filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration, which, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), decided to settle.

In May 2018, Martha and Ana were chatting in Spanish at a convenient store, when a Border Patrol agent, Paul O’Neal, overheard them and decided to detain and interrogate them. The women decided to record their conversation with O’Neal, who was asking them for their IDs.

When Ana asked him why he was detaining them and asking for their IDs, he responded , “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”. Ana then asks him if they are being profiled, and he responds, “it has nothing to do with that, 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”.

The lawsuit filed in 2019 by the ACLU, on behalf of Martha and Ana, cites violations of the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The ACLU argued in court that agent O’Neal had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause that justified the detention of Martha and Ana. Throughout the litigation process, O’Neal surrendered multiple text messages which made racist remarks and anti-immigrant comments.

The Director of the ACLU, Caitlin Borgemann, said in a statement “as if the racism they experienced at the hands of CBP agents were not enough, our clients also bore the brunt of local backlash as a result of coming forward. They both ultimately left Havre for fear of their families’ safety”. The settlement involves monetary compensation but, when asked, the ACLU refused to provide any details about the sum.

After the announcement of the settlement, Ana said, “We stood up to the government because speaking Spanish is not a reason to be racially profiled and harassed. I am proud to be bilingual, and I hope that as a result of this case CBP takes a hard look at its policies and practices. … No one else should ever have to go through this again”

The ACLU expressed that within the first six months of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, it wants to see action regarding the behavior of Costumes & Border Patrol.