BOB GARFIELD: Avoid inconvenience, said the judge in the Pascal Abidor case. Travelers should simply leave whatever they don’t want searched at home. That wasn’t an option for the anonymous Jane Doe, a 54-year-old woman from New Mexico, whose privacy was violated right down to the viscera. She is being represented by ACLU lawyer, Laura Schauer Ives, who says her client was pulled aside for a secondary search, while entering El Paso from Juarez, and sent to a lineup. Then a CBP dog jumped on her which, Ives says, was the impetus for what happened next. If you’re squeamish, we advise you to turn your radio down for a few minutes, because the description of this search is necessarily graphic.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: The agents asked her to remove her pants and to crouch down, spread her genitalia and cough. They asked her to bend forward. They shone a flashlight on her anus and visually inspected that area. They then asked her to lean backwards, holding herself up with, with her back arms, and they did the same to her vagina.
BOB GARFIELD: They found no drugs, so as Jane Doe tells it, this is what happened next. She was handcuffed and sent to a local medical center for more invasive measures. She asked if they had a search warrant, they said they didn't need one. They handcuffed her to a bed, made her ingest a laxative and observed the inevitable result, still no drugs. They x-rayed her, still no drugs. At this point, Laura Ives says her client was in tears. Still handcuffed to the bed, she was told by a doctor to spread her legs.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: He first inserted a speculum into her vagina and observed visually. He then put his fingers or hand in her vagina and his other hand on top of her abdomen and rubbed in between. He did the same with a rectal exam. While this was happening, the residents are watching, the agents are watching. The door is open. There's absolutely no privacy given to her and also not the general kind of comforting direction that a physician usually provides a woman in, in say like a gynecological exam, where they say, I'm going to –
BOB GARFIELD: I’m going to do this. This will be cold.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: Right. There was none of that. It was order after order, with them violating her. And she felt sexually assaulted.
BOB GARFIELD: Next on the list, according to the complaint, a CAT scan. And, just like the search at the port of entry, the forced bowel movement, x-ray and cavity exams, it revealed nothing. After six hours of invasive searches, Jane Doe was free to go.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: Then the agents told her that if she signed a consent form, they would ensure that the hospital didn't charge her, but if she refused, the hospital would send her a bill.
BOB GARFIELD: Refuse, she did, and send her a bill, they did, just shy of $6,000. A nurse told her that her ordeal was pretty routine. Not to Jane Doe.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: Jane Doe is not unlike many other victims of sexual assault. She is unable to leave the house, without fear. Whenever she recounts this event, she cries. She’s unable to be intimate with her husband. And the people who are supposed to protect us, physicians [LAUGHS] and law enforcement, perpetrated this.
BOB GARFIELD: The ACLU filed suit on her behalf against the agents, the hospital and the doctors, claiming that her 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been violated. Ives says that while it’s true that there are diminished constitutional protections of the border, this case is outrageous enough to shock the conscience of the court.
LAURA SCHAUER IVES: With every search, they had more and more information that whatever suspicion they originally had was mistaken. This search done in our names, I can’t imagine it would ever be worth it. This shouldn't happen to any other of our fellow citizens.
BOB GARFIELD: Laura Schauer Ives is an attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico.
CBP in El Paso gave us this statement, quote, “CPB 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.”