NM woman sues border agents after alleged body violation

Posted at: 12/19/2013 7:05 AM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a woman from Lovington, N.M., claiming federal agents and doctors unlawfully searched her vaginal and anal cavities.

The woman, known only in the legal document as Jane Doe because she considers herself a victim of sexual assault, crossed a port of entry into El Paso after visiting a family friend in Juarez, Mexico, on Dec. 8, 2012.  According to the civil complaint, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection dog alerted agents to Doe. It prompted the federal agents pat her down.

"The agents ran their fingers over her genitalia and checked inside of her pants," said Doe's attorney, Laura Schauer Ives, of the ACLU.  "She was asked to undress. She was asked to squat and the agents peered into her cavities with flashlights and pressed their fingers into her genitalia."

The complaint states federal agents never found drugs, so they transported her to the University Medical Center of El Paso. There, she was allegedly subjected to unnecessary invasive medical procedures.    

"First the agents observed a bowl movement," Schauer Ives said.  "That didn't reveal any evidence of criminal activity. She was then X-rayed. The X-rays revealed there was no evidence of contraband or criminal activity. She was then subjected to a cavity search, both rectal and vaginal, and finally she was given a CT scan."

While all of this is happening, the lawsuit states the federal agents never bothered to secure a search warrant and the woman never gave any consent to these procedures. On top of that, while doctors were examining the most intimate areas of her body, doors in the exam room were open and law enforcement officers were freely walking around and looking in.

"Like lots of victims of sexual assault, she wonders what she did to bring this upon herself and we have assured her that she did nothing and there is no justification," Schauer Ives said.  

The documents filed in court state, Doe was "physically, mentally and emotionally injured.  Her labia, vaginal opening and anus were left raw and sore and she felt violated, demeaned and powerless."  The document also notes that Doe has not been able to be physically intimate with her husband.

The University Medical Center of El Paso billed Doe $5,000 for the unwanted procedures.