Invasive Cavity Search at the Border

Friday, February 28, 2014


"Jane Doe" is a 54-year old US citizen who was crossing into the US at the Juarez/El Paso border when agents took her aside for secondary screening. The screening ended up being 6 hours of invasive cavity searches—which yielded nothing and left her traumatized. Bob speaks with Laura Schauer Ives, an ACLU attorney for Jane Doe about what happened at the border that day.


Laura Schauer Ives

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [27]

Anne from Chicago from Chicsago

Dear On-the-Media,

I don't know if you monitor the comments to two-year-old articles, but if so, I would like to request a follow-up episode. What was the outcome of Jane Doe's lawsuit? Did any of the despicable people involved in the rape of Jane Doe gone to jail? What about the doctors and nurses who took part, or who observed and did nothing - have any of them lost their license to practice medicine yet? Or has the case even advanced past the procedural hurdles the CBP's lawyers no doubt have thrown up?

Jan. 09 2016 07:49 PM
Lindsay in Leander

Being required to pay your torturers is an old practice, dating back to the Inquisition.

Since the passage of the Patriot act the US border patrol is accountable to no one. They can rape, torture and abuse people at their whim and they will not be punished.

May. 15 2014 02:23 AM
thomas vesely

i have read of 3 such incidents, horror inflicted and bill tendered.
i would look into whether the cops were inline for a finders fee ?

Apr. 07 2014 05:34 AM

What an incredibly horrifying nightmare of a story! Jane Doe represents how many others? The fact that the hospital staff indicated that this was a regular occurrence is particularly telling. As a retired nurse, their behavior and attitudes portrayed made me glad that their names are in the lawsuit, as well as the CPB officers. Sometimes, it's only through lawsuits and financial judgements that practices are changed. I hope that Jane Doe is able to get enough counseling and support to get her life to some semblance of normalcy. I am frightened at the snowballing effects from the Patriot Act, there are many agencies that are out of control and unaccountable. Thanks for these groups of stories, today.

Mar. 09 2014 12:49 AM
carl clugston from calif.

I would say this is pure rape.

Mar. 07 2014 05:44 PM
Tippy from Tucson

Glad they sent her that bill. You can bet her attorneys call it "Exhibit A."

Mar. 07 2014 07:04 AM
Joe Schmoe

What happened to this woman had absolutely nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with rape and perversion. The "agents," "doctors," "nurses," etc. are nothing short of despicable criminals. They all deserve to spend a significant amount of time in prison, and should never be allowed to be employed in the same capacity again. Whatever Jane may have even had in her (which she did NOT) would not have justified any of this. I am ashamed and frightened that this goes on in my country. I will never go to Mexico again. Go get 'em Laura. While nothing will ever make up for what happened to Jane, I hope that she gets a huge settlement and finds peace and happiness. Jane, if you happen to read this, FWIW, I was alternately angry and incredibly sad, furiously crying while listening to this story; but you must work to let it go. Don't let these scum live in your head and ruin the rest of your life. All the best to you.

Mar. 06 2014 06:54 PM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

What saddens me about cases like this is that when our Govt (or a Govt "friendly" to us) does something like this, politicians don't do anything. I'm betting that if it had been a foreign Govt (especially one that is not seen in a friendly light) politicians would be all over it. This is true for both the US and the UK.

Ethical standards do not depend on geography -- either an action is acceptable or it's not acceptable. What happened here is definitely not acceptable.

Mar. 06 2014 04:19 PM
victor from NY

Beware of predators!
A lot of perverts, pedophiles, molesters and sadists working in places like hospitals, border patrol agencies, police stations and jails.
Usually such sick individuals know very well how to hide behind The Law and are covered by theirs supervisors as well.

Mar. 06 2014 11:18 AM
d j r

I would charge every health care "professional" involved with sexual assault. See if they like their credentials on the line. I would file charges against the agents as well.

Mar. 04 2014 10:37 PM
Diane from New York City

This story made me cry upon hearing it. I felt so much sympathy for Jane Doe. And fury at the government and the hospital. How could they bill her? That's ridiculous! Also, how could medical professionals do this? Even if they were 'ordered' to do so, what about ethics? To me this was legalized torture in a hospital setting.

I wish her luck in resolving this case to get some closure and also to move forward with her life and her relationship with her husband. This must have been an awful nightmare for them to live through.

Mar. 04 2014 04:26 PM
Alan Thomas from Missouri

Deplorable--but what is the media angle? Stay on topic, please.

Mar. 04 2014 02:30 AM
E C from pa

This story made my stomach turn and infuriated me. Everyone involved including medical personnel should be held accountable for this outrageous abuse and despicable behavior. What a sadistic and perverse group of so called humans. Jane Doe was chained to a bed?! Jane Doe I am horrified by what you experienced and I hope that you will find the strength to bring everyone of these people to justice. I don't know if you are religious but I am and sadly the moral fibre of our world is slowly disintegrating. The Devil is hard at work here but if you are religious you know that what happens to us here on earth is not about us. What happened to you physically while horrifying is due a greater force that you had nothing to do with other than being the vessel the devil used you for his own purposes. Please try and realize that this experience can serve a greater purpose for others who have also experienced similar abuses. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and please if people can help by writing to washington let us know. I would like to help.

Mar. 03 2014 12:57 PM
Andrew Kennelly from Redmond, WA

When this story broke, I was so outraged that I sent this letter to my Congresswoman (Suzan DelBene, D-WA). I have not yet received a response.


January 2, 2014

The Honorable Suzan DelBene
Congresswoman, WA 1st District
Bothell District Office
22121 17th Ave SE, Bldg. E, Suite 220
Bothell, WA 98021

Dear Representative DelBene:

I follow with passion issues around civil liberties. I recently read of an incident in El Paso, TX involving U.S. Customs & Border Protection (hence “CBP”) that disturbed me tremendously and compelled me to write to you because I wasn’t sure what else to do to channel my outrage in a productive fashion. While the events described here took place on the southern border, far from home, we do have several border crossings here in the 1st District of Washington State, and hence I hope you will find this matter relevant.

I am enclosing an article from the December 18, 2013 edition of the El Paso Times. The article describes how a 54-year old woman, an American citizen from Lovington, NM, crossed the border into the U.S. at El Paso, TX after visiting a friend in Mexico, and was subsequently subjected to 6 hours of progressively more horrific and invasive strip searches, body cavity searches, laxative-induced defecation, X-Rays, and CT Scans on account of suspicion that she was carrying drugs, when in fact no drugs were found at any time in the process. To add insult, she was subsequently billed for $5,000 for the medical procedures by the medical facility that CBP used to carry out the procedures. And, by the way, during the medical procedures, she suffered the additional indignity of being handcuffed to the examination table. Further details can be found at

As a United States citizen and taxpayer, I am ashamed that my taxpayer dollars are supporting this kind of treatment at the hands of employees of the U.S. government. Not only is it morally reprehensible and a violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, but such stories weaken the moral authority of the United States to make proclamations about human rights across the world. Other governments, some of them unfriendly to the U.S., may look to cases such as this when they formulate protocols for how they will treat U.S citizens they may take into custody. I also wonder whether this one reported case may in fact mask countless others that go unreported.

While one hopes sunlight triggered on this case can serve as a disinfectant to avoid recurrence, I feel there must be accountability all the way from the front line to the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security. I’d like to see a Congressional hearing on the matter, with senior leaders from the relevant agencies called to testify. At a deeper level, if this case represents the mechanisms of the “War on Drugs”, perhaps our nation needs to seriously re-evaluate the wisdom of the “War on Drugs” in its current form.


Mar. 03 2014 02:40 AM
Jessica from New York

This has happened to my husband on more than one occasion. He is American (and white, though that shouldn't matter) but is frequently profiled seemingly because of his long hair and long beard. Nothing has ever been found and he has never been in legal trouble at all. This has literally happened to him 3 times. It makes me so angry and so so sad. I had no idea that he might be able to do something about it. I would be incredibly grateful for more information on where to turn. He tries to say that he can just shrug it off but it feels to me like it has seriously harmed him. Any more information would really be appreciated.

Mar. 02 2014 11:04 PM

Hmm.... all of the accounts in this weeks stories have completely changed my view of international travel.
If I have no rights at my own countries borders then I just might not do that international deal that nets jobs and money for our county. I will just stay home.

Mar. 02 2014 07:07 PM
Famine Road from Pennsylvania

The government actions reported here are shocking and sickening. CBP, like a secret police force in a totalitarian regime, is practicing random terror on citizens.

This weekend's stories make clear that this out-of-control agency, whether through rank incompetence or deliberate indifference, does not care whether its victims display no probable cause for the disgusting treatment reported this weekend. I'm sure the torture of this poor woman was all in a day's work for them: someone's number had to come up that day, and it was just hers. Equally terrifying were the actions of the hospital staff, who apparently see this kind of thing routinely, according to the nurse, and who participate in it without protest or any concern for the victim. It's disgusting to think these people go home at night thinking they are good citizens who have done their duty keeping the country secure.

Where is the rest of this nominal democracy's press in reporting these crimes? Bless On the Media for not only reporting them, but reporting them with the proper outrage, and for taking what small measures remain to past and future victims for getting their representatives' attention. Godspeed the ACLU in their attempt to get these CBP jerks and their supervisors identified and fired, along with, I very much hope, the doctor and hospital staff who were complacent with them, and in their attempt to get this poor woman some measure of justice.

Mar. 02 2014 05:49 PM

This was a very disturbing account. It really seems like a lot of vicious, sadistic people sexually assaulted ‘Jane Doe’. I hope the veil of secrecy is pulled aside and that the agents responsible face criminal as well as civil penalties once they’re identified.
Also the hospital involved should face severe civil penalties as well as sanctions from any medical associations that they belong to. I can’t believe that they had the nerve to send ‘Jane Doe’ a bill for their abuse of her. That alone should double the civil penalties against them.

Mar. 02 2014 04:53 PM
Avi Burstein from NY

This report was truly horrifying. I was left feeling ashamed and demoralized about the state of our democracy.

I've found other such reports of this atrocious behavior. Here is another such case:

How can we hold these people accountable for these crimes?

Mar. 02 2014 03:17 PM
Sarah from New York

First I want to ask what sort of personal, professional and legal help and support is Jane receiving? Has there been a rally on her behalf in her town in support of her? If not, is it fear that keeps people from doing the right thing?

Second, how can those "doctors" be free and running around in a position to do it again? My guess is that they were training their "students". They raped her and then charged her for their "services". This should be front page news, everywhere.

Compare the series of acts which Jane endured (which are in fact beyond rape), with a drug possession. Which is worse? Duh.

The first investigations resolved their concerns, and then they went on and on. What can be done that would make a difference in combatting this insanity? I would really like some serious ideas.

Mar. 02 2014 02:06 PM

I used:
to write to my Fed Representatives on their webforms:

Abolish the Department of Homeland Security.

Invasive Cavity Search at the Border

"Jane Doe" is a 54-year old US citizen who was crossing into the US at the Juarez/El Paso border when agents took her aside for secondary screening. The screening ended up being 6 hours of invasive cavity searches—which yielded nothing and left her traumatized. Bob speaks with Laura Schauer Ives, an ACLU attorney for Jane Doe about what happened at the border that day.

Mar. 02 2014 10:47 AM
bradtom from Oregon

This article made me embarrassed of my government which I help fund so therefore I am responsible, as is every other citizen. Such a disappointment to hear that anyone can be treated this way for crossing the US border. On top of this it appears as if there is extensive racial profiling in many of the circumstances. As a father of two girls, I could not fathom finding out that one of my children would have to endure any type of invasive search. This woman was sexually abused by a licensed doctor in a hospital while shackled to a bed!

I am not naive, and do understand that drugs are frequently smuggled into the county inside human bodies, but shouldn't an ex-ray and laxative been the end? Shame on border patrol and the lack of oversight.

Thank you OTM for bringing this to the publics attention. I am writing my congress person as I find this shameful. This kind of abuse has to be stopped as it is not the definition of a democracy. The countries founders would be so ashamed of the agents and individual involved. What kind of people would do this to another human being in the name of border security? Shame on the doctor and hospital as well- doesn't someone have a conscious?

Mar. 02 2014 12:39 AM
Alex d from Los Angeles, CA

I am so fucking angry!

Mar. 01 2014 05:48 PM

The nausea I feel has not ebbed. I have just turned down the dial and am sitting dumbly while staring at this screen. "Cavity," seems like such an inane word. If our souls had crevices in which they hide within our bodies, would they not be in these places? Places we seem to guard with our lives? Our country, the soul killer? Is this what we are really becoming? I was always horrified at the animals in the places where my family has originated from and how they treat women, thanking my lucky stars my parents came here. It was always a point of arrogance for me. Perhaps I am too naive?

Mar. 01 2014 07:49 AM

Can not believe what I just read & heard. Shame on each & everyone involved with this ludicrous policy, the implementation & application. These people have lost sight of what it means to be an American. I'm proud to be an American but ashamed these people are doing this in the name of 'American Security'. And then not to hold themselves accountable either to oversight or financially for their decisions & actions!?! Who are these idiots?

Mar. 01 2014 07:16 AM
Thatwood B. Telling from The Village

By odd coincidence, after listening to the OTM piece I happened to come across a "News of the Weird" column in which two such searches were described, one of which was possibly Jane Doe's. The other victim, a male, was given three enemas and a colonoscopy in the CBP's fruitless search for drugs. So it's clear that Jane Doe's experience was not an isolated case. How many more people have been subjected to this treatment?

Feb. 28 2014 11:11 PM
Thatwood B. Telling from The Village

If all she'd gone through was a "normal" cavity search, an x-ray and then been billed for it, this would've been an outrage. How can any law enforcement agency charge you for conducting tests of any type that prove you innocent and result in their releasing you? How can they possibly get away with charging you for their mistake, for their failure?

But the addition of anatomical inspection after inspection, each more invasive and disgusting than the last, and each proving the agents' original suspicions wrong, is simply unspeakable. If this actually happened as described-- and it sounds as if it did, as the CBP didn't issue a denial-- it should be investigated by congress and the practice, assuming this is not an isolated case of overzealousness, stopped immediately. The ACLU lawsuit may serve to light a fire under congress to take action, as well as providing just compensation for her ordeal (not to mention a return of her $6000!), and I wish Jane Doe the best of luck with it.

Feb. 28 2014 10:10 PM

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