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Ear to the Ground

Woman Sues After Being Forced to Undergo Invasive Searches

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Posted on Dec 29, 2013
CBP Photography (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A 54-year-old New Mexico woman is suing federal authorities after being forced to undergo “a brutal and inhumane six-hour full-body cavity search by federal officers that included anal and vaginal probes” with no warrant and without consent, the El Paso Times reports.

The woman is also suing a hospital where she was forced to take a laxative and have a bowel movement in the presence of officers. She was additionally X-rayed and made to undergo speculum, vaginal and CT exams. Because she refused to sign a written consent form, she was charged $5,000 for being violated in these ways.

The El Paso Times writes:

The lawsuit names the El Paso County Hospital District’s Board of Managers, University Medical Center, Drs. Michael Parsa and Christopher Cabanillas, two unknown supervising U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and two other CBP officers only identified by their last names of Portillo and Herrera as defendants. The doctors and the agents could not be reached for comment.

The 54-year-old woman, who is not identified in the suit, is asking for an unspecified amount of money and to end the policy that gives federal agents and officers the authority to stick their fingers and objects up people’s cavities when they search for drugs.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court in El Paso on behalf of the woman who was stopped as she crossed at the Bridge of the Americas a year ago. Despite the six-hour search at the port and then later at UMC, no drugs were found.

ACLU New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in the news release: “These extreme and illegal searches deeply traumatized our client. … The fact that our government treated an innocent 54-year-old woman with such brutality and inhumanity should outrage all Americans. We must ensure that government agents never put another person through a nightmare like this ever again.”

The search occurred at about 2 p.m. Dec. 12, 2012, when the woman was returning from a visit to a family friend, whom she calls “uncle” and tries to visit once a month. The ordeal began when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer told her her passport was “randomly” picked for a secondary inspection as it was swiped. Border patrol officers Portillo and Herrera then frisked her through her clothing.

More details about the horrifying six-hour episode as it is described in the lawsuit can be read here.

H/t to Truthdig contributor Scott Tucker for bringing this article to our attention.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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