Woman Complains of 6-Hour Search at Border
EL PASO, Texas (CN) - A U.S. citizen's vagina and anus were left raw from a warrantless six-hour search by Customs and Border Protection agents and doctors, who looked into her with a speculum, then billed her $5,000 for the exam, the woman claims in court.
Jane Doe sued four agents, El Paso County Hospital District, its board of directors, the University Medical Center of El Paso and two of its doctors, in Federal Court.
"Jane Doe is a petite 54-year-old United States citizen. She resides with her husband in Lovington, New Mexico," the complaint states.
As she returned from Mexico via El Paso's Cordova Bridge on Dec. 8, 2012, a "drug sniffing dog jumped on her," Doe says in the lawsuit.
Two Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents took her to a private room, she says, where they examined her anus and vagina with a flashlight.
"Doe was understandably humiliated and she began crying," she says in the complaint.
The agents did not find any drugs or contraband inside her, Doe says, but they took her in handcuffs to the University Medical Center of El Paso for more examination.
She claims that the agents, with two doctors, then subjected her to six hours of demeaning searches "without obtaining consent."
They gave her a laxative and watched her bowel movement, she says.
They handcuffed her to a hospital bed, and ordered an X-ray of her stomach.
The agents watched as a doctor forced a speculum up her vagina to see her insides, stuck his fingers up her vagina while pressing on her abdomen, and put his fingers in her rectum, she says.
"Doe was shocked and humiliated by these exceedingly intrusive searches. That an audience of CPB agents and medical staff observed her being probed compounded her feeling of degradation," the complaint states.
Not finding any drugs, they decided she needed a CT scan, Doe says.
The complaint states: "After the CT scan, a CBP agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches. She refused."
Doe claims that since the ordeal she can no longer be intimate with her husband and "stays at home whenever possible" because she feels that people are staring at her in public.
Adding to her outrage, Doe says, is that the hospital billed her more than $5,000 for the cost of the exams.
She seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations.
She is represented by attorneys with the ACLU in Houston and New Mexico.
A CBP spokesman would not comment on pending litigation.
Defendants include The El Paso County Hospital District; its board of directors; the University Medical Center of El Paso; Drs. Michael Parsa and Christopher Cabanillas; two unknown CBP agents, and CBP Agents Portilla and Herrera, whose first names are not mentioned in the complaint.