Two women who were detained in northern Montana for speaking Spanish while shopping at a convenience store have reached a monetary settlement in their lawsuit against the US Customs and Border Protection.
Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez said their constitutional rights were violated when an agent demanded for their identifications and had them detained in a parking lot outside the store for 40 minutes.
The US Customs and Border Protection remains its position on the issue, denying liability and said in a statement that “the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe.”
The case started in May 2018, when Suda recorded their interaction with Agent Paul O’Neill, where she asked why he was questioning them.
“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,” O’Neill said in the video.
While both are US Citizens and had valid Montana drivers licenses, Suda and Hernandez were told that they were not free to leave the convenience store parking lot.
“We stood up to the government because speaking Spanish is not a reason to be racially profile and harassed,” Suda said in a statement.
“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 agency did not confirm if O’Neill continues to work for them or if he faced any discipline related to the case.
Both parties also did not disclose the amount of money to be paid in the settlement.
While gathering information for the lawsuit, it has been confirmed that the agents of Customs and Border Protection in northern Montana routinely profiled non-white people.
“It is a small place and we have a lot of agents here and nobody really has much to do,” an unnamed border protection supervisor said.