The U.S. has no official language. In fact, hundreds of languages are spoken in this country every single day. Some are indigenous to this land, and predate the European invasion of the Americas. In Montana, at least nine indigenous languages are spoken. But in Montana, speaking something other than English—specifically, Spanish—can also mean getting racially profiled and harassed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents:
Ana Suda said she and her friend, Mimi Hernandez, were making a midnight run to the store to pick up eggs and milk. Both are Mexican American and speak fluent Spanish, and they had exchanged some words in Spanish while waiting in line to pay when a uniformed Border Patrol agent interrupted them, Suda said.
“We were just talking, and then I was going to pay,” Suda told The Washington Post. “I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’ ”
Both Suda and Hernandez are U.S.-born citizens, but that’s irrelevant. People, regardless of legal status, have a right to speak whatever damn language they want in their daily lives, be it Spanish, English, Klingon, who the fuck cares what. But under Donald Trump, mass deportation agents—and civilians—are emboldened. Speaking Spanish at a lunch spot can now get a racist to sic Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on you, and doing the same while shopping can be just as dangerous:
“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,” the agent can be heard saying in the video.
Suda asks whether they are being racially profiled; the agent says no.
“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent tells her. “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.”
So, uh, the dude with a “Most Wanted” poster mustache wasn’t racially profiling the two Latinas, it’s just “the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish”? Okay.
Under the law, Border Patrol agents have broad authority to conduct their operations within 100 miles of the border. “While that may sound like just a sliver of the United States,” Mother Jones reported, it affects as many as 200 million Americans. And while “the 100-mile border zone is not literally ‘Constitution free,’ the U.S. government frequently acts like it is”:
In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse.
Suda and Hernandez were questioned by this agent, identified as Officer O’Neal, for as long as 40 minutes, they told The Washington Post, and filmed a portion of the incident, as they are legally permitted to do. “Suda said she plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union to seek legal guidance” over the racial profiling, which has not just affected the two women, but Suda’s young child as well:
When she got home, Suda posted on Facebook about what had taken place at the gas station. She said her shock began to give way to sadness in the following days, after some local news outlets reported the incident, and her 7-year-old daughter asked whether the video meant they should no longer speak Spanish in public.
“She speaks Spanish, and she speaks English,” Suda said. “When she saw the video, she was like, ‘Mom, we can’t speak Spanish anymore?’ I said ‘No. You be proud. You are smart. You speak two languages.’ This is more for her.”
Of course, the first lady gets praised for reportedly speaking as many as five different languages, but god forbid you do it while brown and minding your own fucking business with your girlfriend, or while helping customers at your job. “Will DHS crack down on this sort of unlawful behavior?” asked Pili Tobar of immigrant rights group America’s Voice. “Don’t count on it. This administration empowers and rewards anti-immigrant sentiments and actions without accountability or shame.” What we need is a new Congress to get this agency in fucking check.
”This isn’t an isolated incident,” Tobar continues. “This isn’t out of character for this President or this administration. The America of liberty and justice for all is, step by step, being replaced by a divided America in which angry people who want to blame and hurt those they consider ‘the other’ are being stoked and provoked by the man in the Oval Office.”