Billings Gazette, May 23, on speaking Spanish not being a crime:
For those of us who may not speak Spanish, reading that first sentence is jarring.
It may even make us feel a bit ridiculous - like there’s something wrong. A few may even be insulted.
We’ll let you in on it.
It says Spanish is not a crime. Of course, the sentence is in Spanish.
And in Montana, a state that feels far removed from the issues of border walls and illegal immigration, it was shocking that the state made national headlines as one of its border officers stopped two American women at a convenience store in Havre for apparently doing nothing more than speaking Spanish.
Ahem, American women.
For them, the experience was more than jarring and it made them feel like criminals.
When asked about the incident on Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that its agents, including this unnamed one, were given wide latitude to investigate suspected cases of illegal immigrants....And, when pressed on camera by one of the women recording the incident, the agent admitted to the women that his primary reason for detaining them was nothing more than the language they used to buy milk and eggs at a store. Apparently, speaking Spanish in Havre counts as suspicious - if not criminal - activity.Because, you know, someone in America illegally would never think to speak English.This incident, captured on video and reported first by The Washington Post, would seem to be an obvious example of profiling, an act inherently unconstitutional.We wonder if the agent would have made the same move if he would have heard Norwegian being spoken, or German? Would he have even known the difference between the languages? Would he have cared?So why is two women of Hispanic descent speaking Spanish any different? Where’s the crime?Freedom of speech doesn’t just apply to those who speak English. If you really love freedom of speech, it should mean the choice to speak freely in any language.It’s pitiful in a world that seems to require most of its citizens to be multilingual that much of America regards English-only as a virtue. We should be encouraging our children, who will enter the most global economy in the world’s history, to speak many languages, not fewer.The American Civil Liberties Union was contemplating action on the case on Monday. We believe the Border Patrol has not only explaining to do in the case of these two women, but also to Montana. Montana cannot be known as a place where you’re under suspicion for speaking a different language. In a state where tourism is the second largest industry, this kind of behavior can only be viewed as potentially harmful to our livelihood.We call on our congressional delegation to pressure Homeland Security to hold the agency responsible. We call on them to uphold the law which says that a citizen cannot be profiled simply for a language.It’s