Woman Slapped With $5,000 Bill After Border-Patrol Agents Subject Her to Multiple Invasive Searches

The New Mexico woman, who was on her way home from Mexico, is now suing the El Paso County Hospital District, the University Medical Center of El Paso and four customs and border-patrol agents.

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U.S. customs inspectors search vehicles at the Bridge of Americas port of entry in El Paso, Texas, in 2001.

Bobbie DeHerrera/Getty Images

A New Mexico woman is suing the El Paso County Hospital District, the University Medical Center of El Paso and four U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents for what the lawsuit describes as "multiple, redundant and increasingly intrusive searches," after which the 54-year-old was asked to foot the $5,000 bill, the Raw Story reports.

"Jane Doe" was coming home from Mexico when a drug-sniffing dog at the border station in El Paso indicated that she could be carrying drugs. Then, according to court documents, over "the next six hours, Defendants subjected Ms. Doe to a series of highly invasive searches, any one of which would have been humiliating and demeaning." The searches were conducted without a warrant or the unnamed woman's consent, the Raw Story notes.

She was first put through a strip search. When that yielded no results, she was allegedly "shackled" to an examining table, and a speculum was inserted into her vagina. While she was on the table, the defendants also performed a rectal exam and "conducted a bimanual cavity search of her vagina," the documents claim.

According to the suit, the woman was "mortified," especially after the "defendants did not even have the decency to close the door to the examining room so that Ms. Doe would not also be subjected to being observed by passersby as she endured a forced gynecological exam."

Nothing was found during any of these examinations, but the agents were not through yet. They also allegedly observed one of her bowel movements, X-rayed her and subjected her to a CT scan. Jane Doe was ultimately released without any charge and without anything having been found.

But the harrowing ordeal was not entirely over. Even though she had never consented to the tests, and a warrant for the tests was never issued, the University Medical Center of El Paso still sent her a $5,000 bill for the "services."

"What is truly frightening about this incident is that it could have happened to anyone," Laura Schauer Ives, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, told the AP, the Raw Story reports. "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 don’t know what guarantees there are to our rights other than a lawsuit like this one that [holds] the government agencies responsible."

Read more at the Raw Story.

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