The dozens of racist incidents targeting various ethnic groups has sparked outrage across the country. Now, two women were detained by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish last week, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The incident adds to the ever-growing list of events sparking nationwide conversations about racial profiling.
An unidentified agent questioned the two Mexican-American friends at a gas station in Havre, Montana—a rural community about 35 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border that is populated by border agents because of its proximity to Canada. On Wednesday, after he overheard them speaking Spanish as the women stood in line to pay for items at the station’s store, the agent asked to see their IDs, they said.
“I was so embarrassed … being outside in the gas station, and everybody’s looking at you like you’re doing something wrong. I don’t think speaking Spanish is something criminal, you know?” Ana Suda, one of the woman and a Texas native, told The Post. “My friend, she started crying. She didn’t stop crying in the truck. And I told her, we are not doing anything wrong.”
Suda, with her friend Mimi Hernandez who is from California, couldn’t believe that the agent had actually stopped them. He denied that he was racially profiling them, telling them that they were speaking Spanish in a predominately English-speaking state. He also detained them for more than 40 minutes after seeing their identification.
The incident showed that non-White racial groups can easily be treated like criminals. U.S. Border and Customs Patrol officials are reviewing the incident, they told the Post; however, the agency must address how racial bias or discrimination plays a role in incidents where people of color are detained who do not pose a threat. Several ethnicities are carrying out normal activities when police officers or other law enforcement are called or make a scene—something that must be addressed as well.