A complaint lodged by the Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) has alleged that at least 31 female detainees in a California detention center were strip searched unlawfully by immigration officials.
The women were detained at the Santa Ana City Jail (which acts as an immigration detention center) by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to suspected immigration violations.
According to ThinkProgress, “The complaint alleged that strip searches were conducted at the time of booking, when women were being transferred from immigration court back to the jail, and when women had in-person visits with their attorneys.”
These women were not previously notified of the searches. One of the major issues with Santa Ana’s handling of the detainees is that officials performed searches as part of a “blanket policy,” without “reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”
However, California Penal Code Section 4030 explicitly “prohibits visual strip searches absent individual reasonable suspicion, and prohibits physical body cavity searches by non-medical personnel.”
Multiple women have stated that they were subjected to several strip searches over the span of a few months. There was no consideration given to these women—“women who menstruated were not provided with special provisions either, having to remove their period pad in their underwear during inspections. A 67-year-old woman also endured multiple strip searches at the jail, despite suffering a hip dislocation and pain.”
According to Buzzfeed News, 14 of these women were transgender, and one transgender woman has stated she felt “completely humiliated” during her search. The complaint details that “in all of these cases, the trans women are not allowed to choose the gender of the person performing the search.”
ICE guidelines, however, mandate that “strip searches will be conducted by staff of the same gender as the detainee, and that transgender detainees shall choose the gender of the staff conducting cavity searches.”
This blatant rejection of federal policies is unacceptable. The complaint’s conclusion urges the Department of Homeland Security to examine Santa Ana’s policies and “adopt a sensible and humane strip search policy.”
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