To understand the angst about Donald Trump’s hatred of Mexicans and immigrants you need not look further than what happened to two women who were detained in Montana for speaking Spanish. Ana Suda, who was born in El Paso, Texas and her friend, were detained by a Border Patrol agent on May 16, 2018 in Havre Montana for speaking Spanish.
On video, the Border Patrol agent, O’Neill, told the women that he detained them for “speaking Spanish…which is unheard of” in the area that they were detained by him for about 45 minutes. Ana Suda asked the agent if he “was new” to Montana, to which he replied “no,” while insisting that speaking Spanish “was unheard” of in the area. Asked if speaking Spanish “was illegal in Montana,” the agent replied “no.”
The thing is that both women are American citizens. Although the agent argues that he did not racially profile them, he did demand to see their identification papers and presumably verified their claim to U.S. citizenship before allowing them to leave.
It is true that under the current law, the U.S. Border Patrol has the authority to conduct citizenship checks on anyone even far from the border. Havre is in Montana, about 34 miles from the Canadian border. The Border Patrol agent who detained the two women, specifically stated that his probable cause for checking their U.S. citizenship was for “speaking Spanish.”
Let that sink in for a moment, the Border Patrol agent suspected them of being undocumented simply for speaking Spanish.
The United States has the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world. Many of the Spanish speakers are American citizens. It is not illegal to speak Spanish in America. Yet, two United States citizens were detained while their claim to U.S. citizenship was verified by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The funny thing is that the monolinguals among us will likely proclaim this is perfectly acceptable while arguing that the Mueller investigation of Donald Trump is a “witch hunt.”
The fact is that a U.S. citizen, whether multilingual or monolingual should have the right to go about their lives without being detained for speaking Spanish.
But that is not what is happening because Donald Trump has unleashed a tsunami of anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States. Trump has made it acceptable to demonize Mexicans and immigrants. Trump has also made it acceptable to make it a crime to speak Spanish in public within the borders of the United States, or so it seems.
There are a few readers who will likely argue that the two women were not arrested and that what the border patrol agent did was help “secure” the border from evil immigrants. First, the women were punitively treated by the border patrol agent by being detained and questioned for about 45 minutes. They are both U.S. citizens and because they were speaking Spanish they were punitively treated by an agent of the United States government.
Second, and most important, is that the United States Constitution promises that all citizens are to be treated equally by law enforcement. Unless, the border patrol agent was conducting a citizenship verification on all people in the area, regardless of the language they were speaking, then he was profiling those he targeted for doing something perfectly legal.
If you do not object to profiling U.S. citizens by the language they speak, then you support the notion that anyone who is not monolingual-English speaker should be deported from the United States forthwith.
To argue that what the border patrol agent did is correct is to argue that there are two legal standards in the United States, one for Anglo-centric monolingual-English speakers and another standard for U.S. citizens who are dark-skinned and speak Spanish.