Moral Low Ground


3 Canadian Women File Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Assault by Female US Border Agents

Three Canadian women filed lawsuits Tuesday alleging that they were sexually molested by female US border agents at a busy frontier crossing. A fourth Canadian woman filed a similar suit last year, also alleging sexual assault by a female US border guard.

The CBC reports that two separate lawsuits were filed this week, one by two women traveling together and another on her own. The alleged sex crimes occurred at the Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel, which connect Ontario with Michigan.

“These were not pat-downs or limited personal searches, these were clearly in the nature of sexual molestation,” US lawyer Tom Wienner, who is representing the women, told the CBC.

One alleged victim, 33-year-old Leslie Ingratta of Windsor, told the CBC that she was traveling to Detroit on a shopping trip when she was detained by agents from the US Customs and Border Protection. Female guards ordered her into a back room and searched her body so aggressively that Ingratta said she felt violated.

“They went under my bra, fondled my breasts and then began to go down,” she told the CBC. “At one point, I was crying. I had people turning around and looking and, you know, making faces like ‘Oh my God, what did she do?’ So very degrading and humiliating, it was a horrible experience.”

Ingratta says she is now terrified of crossing into the United States.

Two unnamed Canadian women, one of them eight months pregnant, claimed in their lawsuit that they were subjected to an invasive and unnecessary body search by US border agents at the Ambassador Bridge crossing. Their suit alleges that a female border guard shoved her finger inside each woman’s vagina and anus and that she fondled each of their breasts in a “prolonged and deliberate” manner.

In a fourth suit filed back in February 2011, 46-year-old Loretta Van Beek of Stratford alleged that customs agents at the Ambassador Bridge detained her, and when they discovered a few undeclared raspberries, she was interrogated for an hour before being strip-searched by two female agents.

“She was squeezing my nipples, etc., for a very long time, unnecessary attention,” Van Beek told CBC News in 2011. “It was sexual — using her fingertips, not back of hand like you would expect.”

Van Beek, who is seeking $500,000 in damages, also claims the female guard shoved her hand into her genitals.

“It was deviant behaviour by the officer, no other explanation,” she said.

Wienner told the CBC that the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution protects all people, not just Americans, against unreasonable search and seizure.

“In the case of the four women who have now filed lawsuits, we believe all of them have had their constitutional rights violated,” the attorney told the CBC.

“These were not searches, these were essentially assaults … unnecessary, completely inappropriate and outrageous searches these women say they were subjected to at the border,” he added.

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