ACLU reaches settlement for New Mexico woman traumatized after body cavity search

ACLU reaches settlement for New Mexico woman traumatized after body cavity search

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KWES) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and New Mexico announced on their website, a record settlement in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection paid a New Mexico woman $475,000 for subjecting her to vaginal and anal searches illegally after she was detained at the Cordova Bridge point of entry in El Paso.

The affidavit said the 54-year-old woman who is a United States citizen, returned to the United States from Mexico through the Cordova Bridge in El Paso on December 8, 2012. While she was crossing into the United States, a drug sniffing dog jumped on her, leading to the United States Customs and Border Protection to search her along with employees of the University Medical Center of El Paso.

Over six hours, the woman had a series of highly invasive searches where government agents stripped her. She was given a visual and manual inspection of her genitals and anus. Agents did not find anything so they subjected her to an observed bowel movement. When they did not find any drugs, they X-rayed the woman and still did not find anything.

She was then taken to the examining table and was given another examination where agents still found no evidence of drugs.

After the searches, the woman was billed more than $5,000. The report said she was traumatized physically and emotionally and wanted the court to help her for her injuries.

On Thursday, four ACLU affiliates at the border sent letters to 40 healthcare providers stating the rights and responsibilities of hospital personnel when they are requested invasive and illegal body cavity searches by the government agents.

One of the lines in the guidelines from ACLU said in the letter, "If a patient brought to the hospital by CBP refused or otherwise does not give adequate consent, medical personnel should stop all medical treatment, unless CBP officers prevent a valid warrant."

The University Medical Center of El Paid the woman a settlement of $1.1 million two years later.

ACLU said this settlement is the largest of its kind over violations involving an individual search.

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