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A School Counselor Says Customs Agents Searched Her Genitals Without Cause

Tameika Lovell says the search violated her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

|||Benoit Doppagne/ZUMA Press/NewscomBenoit Doppagne/ZUMA Press/NewscomA school counselor decided to take a tropical vacation in Jamaica over Thanksgiving break in 2016. The fun came to a screeching halt when she encountered U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents while retrieving her luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The encounter that followed led to a lawsuit currently pending in a U.S. District Court.

Tameika Lovell tells The Washington Post that her 2016 stop was unlike any she had previously experienced. To start, the questions in this encounter were noticeably different. A CBP supervisor inquired about her finances, asking, "Don't you think you're spending too much money traveling?" A female CBP officer then prepared Lovell for a search, apparently for illegal drugs. Lovell was asked if she was wearing a tampon or a sanitary pad, to which she replied "no." She recalled that the question was upsetting. The female officer then began to search Lovell while a second watched while holding on to her firearm. After squeezing Lovell's breasts, the officer "placed her right hand into [Lovell's] pants 'forcibly' inserting four gloved fingers into plaintiff's vagina" and then her buttocks "for viewing."

Lovell filed a suit in March in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Lovell argued that the "random [search]"—which Lovell, a black woman, partially attributes to her race—violated her Fourth and Fifth Amendment.

Tameika Lovell v. United States of America, et al. by Eric Sanders on Scribd

Lovell's story is covered in a larger report by the Center for Public Integrity. The report details several disturbing cases of body cavity searches, including one where a male CBP agent in in Presidio, Texas, was accused of touching the genital area and breasts of an undocumented teen girl while allegedly checking for weapons. Another story details the invasive search of a church volunteer reentering the country from an orphanage in Tijuana. CBP agents decided to check the woman further even after clearing her identity. After the volunteer was told to line up with three other detainees, a female CBP officer allegedly used the same glove to place her fingers down the pants of each woman.

And these aren't the only times that CBP officials have been accused of overzealous and unceremonious proding in body cavity searches. In 2016, for example, a Canadian businesswoman accused three male officers of conducting an invasive search without cause at the Roosville, Montana, border crossing.

Photo Credit: Benoit Doppagne/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Eddy||

    "allegedly used the same glove to place her fingers down the pants of each woman"

    EEEWWWW

    "a Canadian businesswoman accused three male officers of conducting an invasive search without cause"

    Oh, there may have been a cause, in the sense of cause and effect, though maybe not in the sense of legal cause.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    'Cause they can? That's my guess.

  • Eddy||

    The cops always have just cause to search...just 'cause they can.

  • croaker||

    "Fuck you, that's why."

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Bend over and smile or eat lead.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    We've been letting the TSA get away with questionable searches for a while. We've signaled to the government that we will accept it. Just like we have with domestic surveillance.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, the TSA has shown that American's don't really give a shit about search and seizure or probable cause so being surprised when those two things disappear is a bit overwrought given that they're already dead letters of law.

    Hard to shit one's pants over rights that are long gone, I suppose, but I wish this woman luck. I suspect she'll have none, or our tax dollars will be shuffled around into her pockets and the practice will continue.

  • Sparky Wilson||

    I think your correct. We love to scream about injustices, but generally we still accept them. Seems they are starting to act like the TSA and that's sad, but it's a mentality that we've accepted the past 8 years, it'll be hard to change that.

  • ||

    which Lovell, a black woman, partially attributes to her race

    Is there any better reason to eliminate civil/identity "rights" laws than reversing this pervasive culture of paranoia? Because it's not going away as long as identitarianism is officially recognized by the state.

  • sarcasmic||

    Attributing it to race is a kick in the nuts to old white ladies in wheelchairs who get cavity searches. Well, maybe not the nuts.

    Same with BLM and all that crap. As long as government abuse is framed as a racial issue, the systemic problems will never be addressed.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Not when statistics supports the fact that you're more likely to be pulled over for driving while black and more likely to get searched for traveling while black.

  • Mark22||

    This may be related to the fact that you're more likely to violate traffic laws, more likely to carry an illegal weapon, and more likely to have a criminal background when you're black.

  • Eddy||

    I don't know about this case, but police profiling has been known to take race into account - just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

  • Zeb||

    Oh, I'm sure race is a factor in who gets searched in many cases. But when it's constantly discusses as if race is the whole problem, it makes it harder to address the main problem. It may be worse for people of certain races. But it's bad for everyone.

  • sarcasmic||

    Especially poor people. Cops know poor people can't defend themselves in court, so they walk all over them. Poor blacks tend to in areas where there are lots of fellow poor people, while poor white people are more spread out. This gives the appearance of cops being extra-special dicks to blacks, but its more an issue of opportunity and visibility. They're equal opportunity assholes when it comes to being dicks to the poor.

  • sarcasmic||

    tend to *live* in

    My kingdom for an edit button!

  • Wise Old Fool||

    They absolutely racially profile everywhere.

  • ||

    The female officer then began to search Lovell while a second watched while holding on to her firearm.

    It would've been interesting to make a move. At the point where you've been through the scanners, been patted down and are being body cavity searched, you'd have to be Jason Bourne for them to justify shooting you.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Yeah, but I don't know if anyone wants to test that theory.

    They could probably justify shooting a ham sandwich.

  • Eddy||

  • SQRLSY One||

    Now THAT was funny!!! Even the comments after the Dilbert cartoon were funny!!! Everyone, check it out!!!!

  • ||

    They could probably justify shooting a ham sandwich.

    On white bread sure. I dunno about pumpernickel.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    They don't need justification, look at all the people gunned down by the cops already without any credible reason. They basically have a get out of jail card unless someone like the ACLU or similar come in and start asking questions.

  • Mark22||

    They don't need justification, look at all the people gunned down by the cops already without any credible reason.

    Out of about a thousand cop shootings of civilians, maybe a dozen are questionable. That's lower than the murder rate for the general population.

  • Azathoth!!||

    What did the woman's job have to do with anything?

  • ||

    A School Counselor Says

    Am I supposed to be more sympathetic/annoyed/upset because the individual was "A School Counselor"? I guess it's possible that this detail is in the headline...just because why not. But I doubt it.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    A School Counselor Says Customs Agents Searched Her Genitals Without Cause
    Tameika Lovell says the search violated her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

    Sounds like it violated a little more than that.

  • Bill||

    If I recall correctly, the vaginal search violated the 4th amendment
    and the rectal search violated the 5th. Do I have that right?

  • The Last American Hero||

    Why is her occupation relevant to the story?

  • I can't even||

    I was trying to figure that out. The headline made it sound like Customs entered the school to do genital searches.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    School counselors are more believable than mean 'ol border agents.

  • Longtobefree||

    Maybe to you - - - - - - - -

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I know better. I have been around the block and school official can be corrupt like the rest of them.

  • ||

    Why is her occupation relevant to the story?

    I linked it to the 'Don't you think you're spending too much money traveling?' line. She's not a stay-at-home Mom on welfare, no reason she couldn't afford to get to Jamaica for the holidays.

  • Jerryskids||

    I assumed it was just the irony of a government worker complaining about government workers.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Is a hooha considered an effect?

    And did the warrant, they obviously obtained, describe the place to be searched?

  • sarcasmic||

    You forgot the invisible travel clause where you give up all your rights for the privilege of using transportation.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh, wait. It was customs, not tsa. The Nazgul declared that anything within 100 miles of an international border is a Constitution-free zone.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The Nazgul declared that anything within 100 miles of an international border is a Constitution-free zone.

    Or coastline, IIRC. Pretty sure Kennedy airport is within the zone.

  • sarcasmic||

    I was thinking of the border as where jurisdiction stops, which includes twelve miles out to sea. International airports too I would imagine.

  • Cy||

    That 'freedom of movement' was just for the giggles.

  • Hank Phillips||

    "Stow your luggage and some of your rights"

  • Zeb||

    No, it's a place.

    I really think that there needs to be a higher standard for searching inside someone's body than there is to search a bag.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    What, you don't think her hooha counts as per of her person?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    A CBP supervisor inquired about her finances, asking, "Don't you think you're spending too much money traveling?"

    My guess is that the CBP will claim that the fact that she works in a field that isn't known for making lots of money (school counselors, I assume make about the same as teachers) combined with the fact that she's "spending too much money traveling" to justify probably cause for the search. E.g., black woman who doesn't make a whole lot returning from trip to Jamaica = suspected drug mule. Although that's just a guess. Maybe that's why her occupation is relevant.

    I don't know if any of that detail is in the WaPo link because I have adblocker running and fuck them, I'm not going to disable it just so I can the story on their site. And scribd is blocked at work. So... whatever, who gives a shit.

  • BYODB||


    E.g., black woman who doesn't make a whole lot returning from trip to Jamaica = suspected drug mule.


    I think you broke the code.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    I doubt that you can stuff enough Blue Mountain ganja in your va-jay-jay to make it a profitable smuggling operation.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Who do they think they are? TSA?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Everyone knows that the sloppy purse is the best place to hide things now.

  • Dillinger||

    >>>partially attributes to her race

    never gonna get past melanin arguments

  • Longtobefree||

    Damn good thing she did not have an emotional support dog

  • Curly4||

    That couldn't have happened. That was several months before Trump took over the agency and he had not had time to make any changes then. Something must be incorrect somewhere.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Just showing TSA how it's supposed to be done.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The thing was filed in March. This is August. Something tells me she'll be Waiting For the Longest Time.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Don't you think you're spending too much money traveling?"

    Yes, it's ridiculous how much a hotel costs these days.

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