Skip to comments.Stripped, cavity searched and billed, lawsuit says
Posted on 12/21/2013 12:48:39 AM PST by Slings and Arrows
EL PASO, Texas She was forced to strip, cavity searched for hours, then billed, she says. Shes suing.
A New Mexico womans lawsuit claims federal border patrol officers forced her to undergo a brutal six-hour, full-body cavity search, before she was brought to a hospital for further examination, and charged $5,000 for the forced procedures.
The Lovington, N.M., woman said border patrol agents subjected her to anal and vaginal probes that made her feel like an animal, before being taken to EL Paso County Hospital. There, she was forced to have an observed bowel movement, was X-rayed, had a speculum exam, vaginal exam and had a CT scan.
The suit claims the hospital violated her and then gave her the $5,000 bill.
The lawsuit names as defendants the El Paso County Hospital Districts 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. 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 into peoples 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 University Medical Center, no drugs were found.
The woman is identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was first frisked and strip-searched at the port of entry, where officers stuck their fingers inside her rectum and vagina. When that search came up negative, she was taken to University Medical Center.
These extreme and illegal searches deeply traumatized our client, ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in the news release. 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.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a prepared statement that the agency could not talk about a specific lawsuit.
As a practice [Customers and Border Protection] does not comment on pending litigation, the statement said. CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off-duty.
University Medical Center also declined to get into specifics of the lawsuit.
Hospital policy is to obtain consent from all patients who receive medical services at [University Medical Center], spokeswoman Margaret Altoff-Olivas said in a statement. Because this case involves litigation, [University Medical Center] will not be commenting further.
The search took place at about 2 p.m. Dec. 12, 2012, when the woman was coming back from seeing a family friend, whom she calls uncle and tries to visit once a month.
As her passport was swiped, a CBP officer told her she was randomly picked for a secondary inspection, where Portillo and Herrera frisked her through her clothing.
One of the agents ran her finger over Ms. Does genital area during the frisk, the lawsuit said.
Then the woman was told to squat as one of the officers inserted her finger in the crevice of Ms. Does buttocks. The frisk did not show any evidence of contraband or drugs, the lawsuit said.
Then the woman was told to stand in a line with other people as a drug-sniffing dog walked by.
The officer with the dog hit the ground by her feet, but did not hit the ground by any of the others in the line, the lawsuit said. The dog responded by lunging onto Ms. Doe and landing its front paws on her torso.
Ives said she does not believe this was a proper signal to indicate a drugs were present, but officers used it to continue the search.
The woman was taken to another room and asked to take off her pants and crouch as her anus and vagina were examined with a flashlight, the lawsuit said.
The woman, now crying, was taken to University Medical Center after the strip search did not find anything.
During the car ride to the Medical Center, Ms. Doe asked if the agents had a warrant, the lawsuit said. One of them responded that they did not need a warrant.
While handcuffed to an examination table, the woman was searched again by both officers and Cabanillas and Parsa. She was given a laxative and had a bowel movement in a portable toilet in front of both officers, the lawsuit said
Then the womans abdomen was X-rayed, but there were no signs of drugs or any other contraband in the womans body. A speculum was used to probe her vagina and Parsas fingers were used to inspect both her vagina and rectum while the door to the examining room was left open, the lawsuit said.
At this point the lawsuit claims, Ms. Doe felt that she was being treated less than human, like an animal.
The last test was a CT scan of the womans abdomen and pelvis, which resulted in no evidence of illegal activity being found.
The lawsuit said after the CT scan one of the officers told the woman she could sign the medical consent form and [Customers and Border Protection] would pay for the exams, but if she did not sign, she would be charged. The woman refused to sign and eventually she was charged more than $5,000 for the examinations.
According to the lawsuit, she repeatedly refused to consent to any of the searches.
University Medical Centers search of patients policy states, Associates, members of Medical Staff, Residents or Allied Health Professionals may search a patient only when necessary to comply with a search warrant. Under the subhead procedure, the policy states, unless a patient consents, an invasion of the patients body to obtain evidence requires a search warrant.
A warrant was not obtained, the lawsuit said.
However, in practice, the medical center staff and [Customs and Border Protection] agents routinely conduct invasive cavity searches without warrant, consent or sufficient suspicion to justify the searches, the lawsuit said. When Ms. Doe expressed dismay about the unreasonable searches she suffered, a medical center employee responded that these procedures were routinely followed when an individual is brought in by CBP agents.
In a phone interview, Ives said searches like the one the 54-year-old woman went through are illegal and becoming common among law enforcement.
When the less intrusive search didnt find any evidence of drugs, more intrusive searches should have not been used, Ives said. Any one of those searches should have eliminated any suspicion of drugs. A second search should make it clear and at most a third search should have been the last.
She said: The fact that this happened to a 54-year-old woman should outrage anyone. She did ask to talk to an attorney and she did ask for a warrant. I dont know what guarantees there are to our rights other than a lawsuit like this one that hold the government agencies responsible.
Oh woo hoo. Never, ever go to this state. This is number 3 I believe. Watch more of these people emerge now.
The good news is that these hospital procedures are now covered under Obamacare.
Oh wait, she is from New Mexico but this happened in Texas?
Correct. Same JBT modus operandi, though.
Must have been some deep cavities or many of them.
And if they get away with this, it will become more common. This seems like a sadistic opening shot to me.
Let no one doubt that we are becoming a police state.
Who’s the Governor of New Mexico? Please don’t say its a republican, (but if so..). Something is going on in their training, got to be. You don’t find this many perverted, obsessives able to pass all the other tests, and ready to throw all caution down the drain with this nasty business.
So the lawyer “believes” that the K9 search was not correct in the K9’s indication...no where does this say that the NM woman is a US Citizen or an illegal alien...what her prior arrest record was...why she was in line with so many others...why she came in contact with Customs Border Patrol and not state law enforcement...yet another article on emotion...
I fully understand the comments on govt over stepping and illegal searches like these...but I have NO sympathy for illegals either bringing drugs into the US or those that are used as decoys...no where in the article did it say that her US Constitutional Rights were violated...which to me rings - ILLEGAL!
This BS emotional articles like these totally ignore the fact that any truthful investigation into what the other party was doing and only concentrated on the CBP is yet one more glaring example of divisional tactics used by the news to upset everyone..instead of doing unbiased journalism...
The standards for LEOs must be higher. If it were up to me, the surviving LEOs would be very wealthy. Yeah, there’s some intended humor there...
Multiple highway patrol officers in Texas have been captured by dash cams doing 'unconstitutional' cavity searches on women's genitals during traffic stops. Lawyers and civil rights advocates say the 'mind-boggling' searches are all too common.
So maybe Texas is getting dangerous too.
It says it was U.S. Customs people, so that would have nothing to do with the Governor of New Mexico (who also happens to be a Latina Republican about the age of the victim here).
Also, the incident took place in Texas.
You may wish to reread the article.
I’m sorry to tell you that the Gov. of New Mexico is our friend, Susana Martinez, Conservative, Republican, Hispanic, Female.
But this story involves Customs & Border Patrol agents, so they must be Feds.
It is OUTRAGEOUS that anyone can be searched in this manner who has not been arrested. Sorry, you want to stick your finger up my *ss - you need to arrest me and charge me and get me an attorney first. The idea that they told this woman she was “randomly” selected is also infuriating.
I like this part: “searches like [this] are illegal and becoming common among law enforcement.”
Illegal and becoming more common do not belong together
govt sponsored prostitution services?
I’m going to take a shot in the dark and predict the lady is also a Latina.
You lost me.
Yes it does.
The search took place at about 2 p.m. Dec. 12, 2012, when the woman was coming back from seeing a family friend, whom she calls uncle and tries to visit once a month. As her passport was swiped, a CBP officer told her she was randomly picked for a secondary inspection, where Portillo and Herrera frisked her through her clothing.
Yeah, that “random search” part really jumped out at me. “C’mon, lady, we’re gonna go deep sea diving in your body cavities with our fingers. Don’t worry, just routine, and it’s just random, ma’am.”
Might be good to keep a few attorney contacts in my wallet or phone. Sue them heavy enough, publicize the supervisors connected to the case, and that will be their training update.
Apologies. I rarely post back, and I was mistaken to post to you.
That said, I believe cops should be held to an exceptionally high standard — rich rewards, but severe consequences for Constitutional violations.
Let’s cut the force down to a third. Pay them 200k+. No bennies, No immunity. No retirement.
The best. No bullshit.
Maybe you should have read a little more. It says they swiped her passport upon entry.
“Sorry, you want to stick your finger up my *ss - you need to arrest me and charge me and get me an attorney first.”
They better at least buy me dinner and call me the next day!
No worries re the misaimed post.
I am preparing to go into the profession of pharmacy. As a professional, I am responsible for my own actions and face the consequences if I should err. If cops are professionals, let them be treated like professionals.
[ the woman who was stopped as she crossed at the Bridge of the Americas a year ago ]
Still doesn’t say whether she is a US Citizen...she was entering the US in El Paso...plus Ciudad Juarez is a hot spot for the Mexican drug wars going on there between rival gangs...the violence is high there...
And what is with “Jane Doe” - doesn’t the accuser have to ID ones self to those she/he is accusing under US Law - or are they ignoring that since this is an ACLU lawsuit benefiting an illegal alien with “who knows what record” when it comes to drug smuggling...
the part...”a family friend, whom she calls uncle “ and “passport”
Highly suspicious on “uncle friend” and what passport — US Passport - Mexican Passport??? Doesn’t say now does it...???
Again - this article has specifics stemming from one side and is not complete in its inquiry into this matter...it’s nothing more than to garner emotion and stir up the Latin American community - when real US CITIZENS that aren’t involved in the drug community or gangs are being hurt or killed and this is one of several ways the CBP is attempting to protect the nation...
I don’t like Illegal searches that have no bearing - but I highly doubt...or let my use the ACLU’s lawyers words - I don’t BELIEVE this CBP agents did this to be perverts...they had reason and a year later is a long time to file suit....seems the drug lords are trying to tie the hands of border agents with this lady and the ACLU is playing right into their hands...but like the ACLU - that’s what I believe...it’s all about belief anymore - not FACTS - right?
Glad to hear about your pharmacy pursuit!
WHAT PASSPORT - US - MEXICO - EL SALVADOR???? The article does not ID the passport — so why don’t you read the article a little more!
She was visiting a friend called Uncle??? Obviously she was entering the US - not leaving...think before you post - I did and so far everyone who has responded to me in their emotional state didn’t get it!
What difference does it make what her citizenship is. The fact that she has a passport means she is documented, can legally cross the border and was never an issue with BPC. If you didn’t know, I’ll inform you now. Anyone legally crossing the border into the united states has all the rights of the constitution afforded to them, especially their civil rights.
Yes, obviously, being from NM, she was re-entering the U.S. after visiting someone in Mexico. What is your point?
"...A lawsuit has been filed against the University Medical Center of El Paso and a number of its doctors, along with Customs and Border Protection and several agents for alleged abuses against a U.S. citizen"
But the article didn’t say - again using the ACLU mindset - I believe the passport was in question and that it wasn’t a US passport and they had reason to believe she was illegal and pulled her to the side for further examination...maybe the passport she had was for a person that was know for drug smuggling and the 54 yr old was set up by drug gangs and used a proxy...but then again you and I don’t know...but having done counter-drug ops this is common tactics among drug smugglers and you are getting more emotional by the post about an event you know nothign about off of some poorly written article...
"On December 8, 2012, agents frisked and strip-searched a U.S. citizen as she was trying to return to the U.S. via the El Paso bridge, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the ACLU of New Mexico."
Could you point me to the part of the article that brings that into question. I could not find it.
That pass port could have belonged to someone else - her story is highly suspicious - Mexico is notorious for corruption - to even suggest that everything was just OK and that the perverted CPB agents decided to pull one over on a 54 yr old woman is grasping at the moon...come on...you have to smarter when thinking about the WHOLE story - not little bits like the journalist who wrote this crap piece wants you you to...
It was the CBP who gave the reason she was searched.
"As her passport was swiped, a CBP officer told her she was randomly picked for a secondary inspection, ..."
really....read what I said...I’ll go slow...
I believe the passport was in question
ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives made statements in this article where “SHE BELIEVED” certain things occurred or should not have occurred...so I said,
“I dont like Illegal searches that have no bearing - but I highly doubt...or let my use the ACLUs lawyers words - I dont BELIEVE this CBP agents did this to be perverts...they had reason and a year later is a long time to file suit....seems the drug lords are trying to tie the hands of border agents with this lady and the ACLU is playing right into their hands...but like the ACLU - thats what I believe...its all about belief anymore - not FACTS - right?”
See the part where I typed out “or let me use the ACLU’s lawyers words” and I put BELIEVE really big - suggesting that since the ACLU can speculate - then so can I — nothing in this article has facts in it - it’s not well written - it’s all about emotion! Nothing more...
Let’s see, what DO we know. We know she was stopped, from other articles it states she was a US citizen. She was taken to the medical center and searched and probed, without a warrant, she was billed for that medical procedure. Why are you defending CBP over this incident? Can’t you see they most certainly violated this womans rights?
You showed me nothing that brings the validity of her passport in question.
That’s code for “ We don’t BELEIVE your BS story for visiting a made up uncle” - so we they continued to process her....
Has anyone in here commenting towards what I’m saying EVER worked in counter-narcotics??? Ever served in a police role dealing with foreigners???
Everyone so far comes across as if they are experts at this...it’s amazing how much speculation is being spewed out without ever realizing that this article has few to no facts in it...it’s all one-sided coming from the ACLU - which care nothing about legal rights for legal US Citizens...that is highly suspicious!
nor does the article -— that’s why I’m saying — if the lawyer can file a lawsuit over what she BELIEVES - then I can make statements on what I believe — these articles have no bearing or facts in them...
All any of us here has done is post some facts to you. You’re the one ranting on with wild conspiracy theories based on emotion.
I doubt if the lawyers filed a lawsuit without verifying her identity which would include checking her passport, citizenship and place of residence.
I’m not talking about the other articles - I posted on this one...and per the US News being reliable - I don’t BELIEVE they are...apparently the 54 yr old woman has either gone around trying to get someone to file suit on her behalf and was turned down until the ACLU jumped on it - or this is just one more case of someone doing something illegal and was almost caught for it...I’m NOT defending the CBP - my WHOLE POINT is that these articles do NOT contain facts to have people like you or me start judging a situation that neither of us know anything about...you or I weren’t there - so we don’t know if her rights were violated - if she is a legal US Citizen or a citizen of another nation depending on what other articles are referenced...again - the whole goal of this article - you know the main one that was posted - was to elicit an emotional response!
If only they would have searched her more thoroughly!
You’d be surprised! I’ve seen ACLU do some stupid stuff in court...because they base their response on emotion! Have you been an arresting officer - done counter-drug ops - testified in court weekly , if not daily??? What’s your background to be shoving out opinions on this subject?
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