Monday, June 13, 2016
The "border search exception" to the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures gives Border Patrol officers great discretion to conduct intrusive body cavity searches at the border. Jamie Ross of the Courthouse News Service reports that Border Patrol agents subjected a teenage U.S. citizen to seven hours of abusive and degrading searches and strip searches for no reason as she tried to walk home from breakfast in Nogales.
As in many twin cities on the border, walking from Nogales, Ariz., to Nogales, Sonora, for a meal is as common as walking to a McDonald's in a city away from the border. Ashley C., a natural-born U.S. citizen, did so frequently, with her birth certificate and state of Arizona identification card.
On Oct. 14, 2014, she says, a Border Patrol agent accused her of carrying drugs and directed her to a detention room, handcuffed her to a chair, had her sniffed by dogs, and strip-searched by women agents. The "extremely petite" 18-year-old was never informed of her legal rights, nor was she allowed to call her mother. Nor did the agents or the dogs find any drugs. But that didn't stop them from taking her to a hospital, in handcuffs, to be X-rayed and strip-searched more thoroughly.
Ashley seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, including false arrest, false imprisonment, and assault and battery.
In December 2013, a 54-year-old woman sued the University Medical Center of El Paso and several Border Patrol agents, after being subjected to body cavity searches for six hours at the border after a drug-sniffing dog jumped on her. The hospital paid the woman $1.1 million in a July 2014 settlement, and agreed to review its policies.