A Canadian woman is speaking out after being the target of outrageous mistreatment at a U. S. border crossing. She was subjected to a body cavity search by three male customs agents–with no women present. Fortunately, after a member Parliament demanded answers, U. S. customs officials launched an investigation.
On May 14, Mary Anne Gill was on a motorcycle trip to Elmo, Montana with one of her female friends. When the two women arrived at the border crossing in Rossville, Montana; Gill took off her helmet while she was walking to the window. An agent from U. S. Customs and Border Protection told her she should have waited for instructions–and out of nowhere, wondered why Gill was traveling to “Indian country.”
He then told her that before she could proceed, she would have to undergo a secondary inspection. Under customs regulations, anyone who crosses the border can be randomly flagged for secondary inspection. They may also have to endure a secondary inspection if they have previously broken American law, their papers aren’t in order, or if their name matches a person of interest.
Gill was then taken to an inspection facility. Her friend wasn’t allowed to follow her. The customs agents discovered she had an interim driver’s license. Even though they found Gill’s license was legitimate and there was no contraband on her Harley, they decided to conduct a strip search.
Needless to say, Gill was horrified. It cannot be repeated enough–she was alone with three men. She demanded that they call the police, but they flatly refused. They also refused to offer any option other than a strip search. When she refused to undress, they forcibly took off her clothes.
Now here’s where this gets hideous. The three agents then conducted a cavity search. In a colossal understatement, Gill described it as “awful,” “really bad,” and “everything but legitimately OK.” She kept demanding, “How can you do this to a woman? This is not right.” Her friend later recalled hearing her screams from two blocks away.
This outrageous mistreatment lasted for 45 minutes. When they found nothing, they let Gill go. When she was finally reunited with her friend, they had to stay on a side road for about half an hour before she felt composed enough to drive. They were too shaken to go to Elmo, instead getting a hotel before going back to Canada. At the border crossing on the Canadian side, an RCMP officer gave Gill a speeding ticket. Gill was still shaken by her mistreatment on the American side of the border, and “just lost it.” When she calmed down enough to tell the officer what happened, he comforted her and got her in touch with Canadian victim services.
When Dan Albas, the member of the Canadian House of Commons for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, heard about the mistreatment Gill endured, he hit the ceiling. He had “some very worrying concerns” about the customs officers’ behavior, and offered to help her get in touch with American officials. He also said that the next step is to get in touch with the American consulate in Vancouver to ensure that some sort of investigation takes place.
Apparently Albas has already gotten some results. Gill said she tried and failed on several occasions to submit an online complaint to Customs and Border Protection. However, CBP spokesman Jason Givens told Kelowna Now that an investigation is underway. He said that customs officers can only strip-search someone if they believe beyond reasonable doubt that the traveler has something illegal. Even then, such a search must be conducted by an officer who is of the same sex as the traveler.
Gill has rented a house in Hawaii for the holiday season. However, she doesn’t plan to come to the States again without her husband present. She is still concerned enough about her safety in this country that she has already talked with the RCMP.
This has me literally shaking with anger. Would these agents have sat there and allowed their daughter, their sister, their niece, or their cousin to endure such degrading mistreatment? These three yayhoos have disgraced their badges, their agency, and their country. They need to be fired, and they need to be fired yesterday.