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.
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