DENVER | Two Denver residents have accused immigration officials of racial profiling when they blocked a bus of Spanish speakers from leaving a Nebraska McDonald's parking lot, according to a federal complaint filed Monday.
Arquimides Bautista and Rosalba Artimas, who say they are U.S. citizens, were on the bus traveling from Denver to Omaha, Neb., for an Amway conference in April when the passengers stopped at a McDonald's for breakfast.
The complaint, filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, said a Spanish-speaking Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent at the fast-food restaurant alerted her boss, who sent other agents to use their vehicles to block the bus from leaving.
Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director, said the immigration agent at the McDonald's had inferred from overhearing the passengers' conversations that they had been traveling for some time, and that the "way they were dressed made her suspect a smuggling load."
Silverstein said the agent did not specify in her ICE report how the passengers' clothing made her suspicious.
He called the case "racial profiling and ethnic stereotyping at its very worst."
ICE said in a statement that two agents at the McDonald's made the decision to detain the bus "based on their 29 years combined immigration-enforcement experience" because they suspected the bus "may be used for smuggling illegal aliens."