HAVRE – It’s been just over one week since Ana Suda and her friend were stopped by a Border Patrol agent at a convenience store in Havre.
Suda moved to Havre four years ago and says she’s always felt welcomed by everyone on the Hi-Line. Suda said that some people are saying she is over-reacting to the incident in the early morning hours of May 16.
Ana Suda, who was born in Texas and has now lived in Havre for several years, stopped with a friend at a Town Pump store to buy milk and eggs. They were speaking Spanish when a Border Patrol agent asked them for their documents.
Suda said she paid for her items, gave the agent her identification, and she started recording video of the incident in the parking lot. When she asked why he wanted to see their identification, the agent said, "Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here."
The incident triggered an outpouring of emotions on social media: people condemning the agent for what they believe is racial profiling, and people praising the agent for working to protect the country from possible criminal activity.
“I am okay if they do their job, but this is profiling,” Suda said on Thursday.
“He asked where we were born so I said, ‘Are you serious?’ He was like, ‘Yes, I am very serious.’ I said I was born in El Paso, Texas, and my friend said she was born in El Centro, California,” Suda said.
The agent asked for their IDs and that is when Suda decided to start recording him in the parking lot of the gas station. Suda said she was shocked and sad, but she never got mad about the situation.
“I want to know more. I want to know why you stopped me. This is weird to me because I know I was not doing anything wrong,” Suda said.
Suda says after about 17 minutes, she asked for her ID back, but the agent told her no, so at that point Suda considered herself to be detained. Suda said that the officer let them leave after about 35 minutes.
“A lot of people on Facebook say you have the choice to not give it to them, but you don’t,” Suda said.
Suda says her daughter has now asked her if she should continue to speak Spanish. “I want to be able to see my daughter do whatever she wants. If she is smart enough to speak another language, she should speak,” Suda said.
Suda is now considering moving from Havre because she does not feel as comfortable after this incident.
Suda said the day after the incident: "My family was asking me, because my family is still in Texas, and they were asking me, how is Montana about this? I said I have never had a problem before. I say Montana is perfect. I love the people here, the people are so nice. It is nicer than other states. I can not believe this happened."
Suda said even her husband, a former probation officer with the Montana Department of Correction who is in law enforcement, is questioning what happened: “He thinks it is very bad what this guy was doing because he does not have the right to do it.”
Suda says she is meeting with the ACLU to find out about her rights and what next steps she might take.