On May 16, 2018, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent illegally detained Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez in Havre, Montana. Captured on video, the agent’s stated reason for detaining them was because they were speaking Spanish.

In February 2019, the ACLU sued the federal government on behalf of Ana and Mimi, arguing that their constitutional rights were violated. The lawsuit seeks to permanently block CBP from stopping and detaining people on the basis of race, accent, or language.  Read more about the lawsuit here

On Feb. 26, a U.S. District Court rejected the government’s request to throw out a critical part of this case. The plaintiffs’ claim for an order barring CBP from detaining individuals on the basis of race, accent, or speaking Spanish will proceed.  The plaintiffs also seek a declaration that race, accent, and language cannot form the basis for stopping - or seizing - an individual.  

“We’re pleased that this case is proceeding,” said Alex Rate, ACLU of Montana’s Legal Director. “It is unconstitutional to detain people because of the language they are speaking. The actions by the CBP agent were discriminatory and unjustified.  The government needs to be held accountable and stop this harmful practice.”

Ana and Mimi filed the lawsuit to stand up for their rights and to stop the discrimination they faced from happening to others.  

“We don’t want anybody else to experience the discrimination and humiliation that we faced,” said Suda.  “We’re still traumatized from the day we were detained, and we hope we can stop Customs and Border Protection from traumatizing others.”

Now that the Government’s motion to dismiss has been denied, the Court will set a trial date and the parties will engage in information exchange - called discovery - in the coming months.