As the Trump administration ramps up its efforts to purge the U.S. of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, Border Patrol plays an increasingly important and aggressive role. While it's now their duty to forcibly separate children from their families and destroy water left to keep people from dying in the desert, in recent months it's become obvious that Border Patrol is also responsible for stopping people and demanding they prove that they're citizens. And apparently, they need barely anything to justify these stops.
A story out of Montana is the latest example. An agent stopped two women, both American citizens, and questioned them for 35 minutes before determining that, yes, they're right, they're American. Why exactly did this agent pull them aside while they were at a gas station? One of the women, Ana Suda, asked him and recorded his response:
"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."
So, she asked, it's racial profiling then?
"It has nothing to do with that. It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking."
So according to this agent, the ability to speak Spanish is all the justification law enforcement needs to stop and question people. This may go a long way to explaining how hundreds of U.S. citizens have been detained or deported by ICE. But despite the agent's insistence to the contrary, many are reporting that Border Patrol often racially profiles people, meaning they stop anyone who looks Latino and then provide some other justification for it.
Border Patrol operates with surprisingly little transparency for an agency with such sweeping reach. There's a so-called "100-mile zone" away from the border where they still have jurisdiction, and because coastlines are considered borders, about half the American population lives inside that zone.
But Trump and his underlings have repeatedly insisted that more immigrants mean more crime—which is objectively and qualitatively wrong—and therefore aggressive secret-police-esque agencies like the Border Patrol and ICE need as little oversight as possible. In practice, that apparently means giving them the freedom to harass anyone who doesn't look and sound Anglo enough.