Charge dropped against man arrested after speaking Spanish | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Charge dropped against man arrested after speaking Spanish

Associated Press
1841116_web1_web-courts11

PORTLAND, Maine — Federal prosecutors dismissed a felony charge against a Guatemalan who was arrested after coming to the attention of Border Patrol agents for speaking Spanish in public in a case that raised concerns about racial profiling.

The Border Patrol acknowledged in a court document that suspicions about members of a family that included Mateo Carmelo-Bartolo were aroused because they appeared to be of “Central-American origin” and because they spoke Spanish while shopping at a Goodwill store in Bangor, Maine.

Pursuing the felony charge, a prosecutor wrote, was not “in the interest of justice.” The charge, of reentering the U.S. after removal, was formally dropped Monday.

Defense attorney Ronald Bourget said the federal prosecutor did the right thing but noted that his client faces further proceedings in immigration court in Boston.

“In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that racial profiling is something that’s occurring,” Bourget said Tuesday, describing the Border Patrol’s conduct as “atrocious.” He added: “It’s not illegal to speak Spanish in a Goodwill store in Maine.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said federal guidelines prohibit profiling on the basis or religion or race. But the spokesman, Michael McCarthy, said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the Carmelo-Bartolo case.

The U.S. attorney’s office also declined further comment.

Carmelo-Bartolo, 31, remained jailed Tuesday at the Somerset County jail. He admitted during questioning by Border Patrol agents Sept. 19 that he was in the country illegally, according to court documents. Despite the dismissal of criminal charges, he still faces a civil proceeding that will be handled by an immigration judge in Boston, Bourget said.

The U.S. Supreme Court bans profiling based solely on race, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine accused the Border Patrol of crossing the line.

“Racial profiling is wrong. Law enforcement cannot target people on the basis of their race or national origin. Dismissal of the case is, indeed, ‘in the interests of justice,’” said Emma Bond, a staff attorney for the civil rights organization.

The Maine case comes as the Border Patrol has increased highway checkpoints, bus station checks and other activities farther from the Canadian border.

The Border Patrol can conduct operations like those within 100 miles of the borders, even though agents have authority across all 50 states, according to law. Those parameters allow for such operations across the entire state of Maine.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.