ACLU issues advisory to hospitals in border regions regarding body cavity searches on detainees

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union reached out to hospitals and medical centers in four border regions to clarify that U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot "compel, cajole or otherwise pressure" medical professionals to conduct body cavity searches without a warrant, according to an NBC 7 San Diego report.

The letters came following two settlements between the federal government, El Paso (Texas) County Hospital District and a New Mexico woman who claims she was charged for invasive exams administered by El Paso County Hospital personnel due to demands from U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

According to the letters, the unidentified woman was made to undergo a strip search and cavity search by CBP officers. After failing to find any illegal substances, the officers transported the woman to the University Medical Center of El Paso where she was "subjected to…highly invasive manual searches of her vagina and anus and unnecessary radiological scans," according to the letters. The hospital later charged the woman approximately $5,000 for the exams.

The letters also state that CBP officers "pressured physicians into conducting the searches without a warrant and over [the woman's] strenuous objection."

The medical professionals at the El Paso Hospital District settled the case for $1.1 million. The federal government also settled, awarding the woman $475,000. Both the government and El Paso hospital officials agreed to provide additional training and revise their policies on proper search techniques.

ACLU affiliates at the U.S.-Mexico border sent letters to over 40 hospitals and medical centers detailing the rights and responsibilities medical professionals have when confronted by CBP officers requesting body cavity searches, according to the NBC News report.

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