HAVRE, MT (RNN) – Two women faced a stressful situation during a late-night shopping run.
Ana Suda and her friend, Mimi Hernandez, both U.S. citizens, were picking up groceries at the store near the border with Canada on Wednesday morning.
When they exchanged some words in Spanish while waiting to pay, a uniformed Border Patrol agent stopped them, KRTV reported.
He demanded to see their ID and interrogated them outside the convenience store for more than 30 minutes, Suda said.
"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,'" she told the Washington Post.
"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 agent said.
Suda said she began recording the conversation in the parking lot because she felt uncomfortable.
He claimed that he wasn’t racially profiling the women, and he eventually let them go.
Suda said she is planning to sue, she told the Washington Post.
The Border Patrol claims wide legal latitude for searches in the "border region" of the U.S.
According to the Customs and Border Protection website, immigration officers may, without a warrant, "within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States ... board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle. 8 CFR 287 (a)(1) defines reasonable distance as 100 air miles from the border."
As part of their work securing borders, they can also "question occupants of vehicles about their citizenship, request document proof of immigration status, and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle."
Places within 100 air miles of the border include cities people don't think of as border cities, such as Columbia, SC, and Columbus, OH, the American Civil Liberties Union said. Nine of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. also fall within this zone.
The ACLU claims the agency is running amok at the expense of people's civil liberties.
"Given Border Patrol's lack of transparency, and in the absence of any meaningful oversight, there is still much that we don't know about the full extent and impact of these interior 'border enforcement' operations,'" the organization said.
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