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2024 Montana Primary elections

Montana Women Detained By Border Patrol After Speaking Spanish Settle Lawsuit

Martha Hernandez (left) and Ana Suda say they were interrupted and detained because they spoke Spanish while shopping at a convenience store in Havre, Mont. They've now filed a lawsuit.
Brooke Swaney
/
ACLU of Montana via AP
Martha Hernandez (left) and Ana Suda say they were interrupted and detained because they spoke Spanish while shopping at a convenience store in Havre, Mont. They've now filed a lawsuit.

Two women who say they were detained by a border patrol agent after speaking Spanish in northern Montana settled with the government earlier this month.

Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez claimed their constitutional rights were violated when U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained them in 2018 after hearing them speak Spanish at a convenience store in Havre.

The parties settled the case out of court on Nov. 5 for an undisclosed monetary sum, with American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Montana and law firm Crowley Fleck representing the two women.

Montana ACLU executive director Caitlin Borgmann says the case and the settlement draw needed attention.

“It’s going to be ongoing work to make sure that the agency is held accountable for the racism that our clients experienced," Borgmann says.

In an email, a spokesperson for the CBP says under the settlement, it’s not admitting liability or fault on the part of the United States.

The parties did not disclose any more of the settlement terms.

Suda and Hernandez, both American citizens, said their constitutional rights were violated by an agent who demanded their identifications and detained them for about 40 minutes. In a video recorded by one of the women, the agent said he asked for the identifications because they were speaking Spanish. He said that was very unheard of in northern Montana.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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