ACLU files claim against border patrol agent who allegedly sexually assaulted two sisters

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed claims with the federal government Wednesday alleging a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent sexually assaulted two sisters in July.

According to the organization's press release, the sisters — who were 19 and 17 years old at the time — encountered the officer after crossing the Mexican border in Texas–Chihuahua while traveling to the United States from Guatemala. When they asked the agent for help, he brought them to an office in Presidio, Texas, where the alleged assaults occurred.

In a Monday blog post, the older sister, Clarita, recalled being detained in a holding cell with one other CBP agent after being interrogated with her sister. The officer reportedly took Clarita into "what seemed like a closet," where the agent "blocked the door" and asked her to remove her clothing under the guise of making sure she wasn't "carrying anything illegal." Clarita alleged he then lifted her bra and fondled her breasts before "forcefully" pulling down her underwear and "running his hand" over her vagina.

"I was so scared and confused," Clarita wrote. "I couldn't understand why he was doing this. It clearly wasn't necessary for security purposes."

Afterward, Clarita said she watched as the agent took her younger sister into the same closet. "My sister emerged the same way as I had: crying and terrified," she wrote.

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US-Mexico border and Border Patrol agents

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands for a photograph while keeping watch along the U.S. and Mexico border in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, pledging to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

US Border Patrol agents speak with a woman on the US/Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on February 20, 2017, prior to her crossing into the US. ATTENTION EDITORS: This image is part of an ongoing AFP photo project documenting the life on the two sides of the US/Mexico border simultaneously by two photographers traveling for ten days from California to Texas on the US side and from Baja California to Tamaulipas on the Mexican side between February 13 and 22, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

US Border Patrol agents patrol the Rio Grande river on a fan boat on the US/Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on February 21, 2017. Attention Editors: this image is part of an ongoing AFP photo project documenting the life on the two sides of the US/Mexico border simultaneously by two photographers traveling for ten days from California to Texas on the US side and from Baja California to Tamaulipas on the Mexican side between February 13 and 22, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands for a photograph while keeping watch along the U.S. and Mexico border in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, pledging to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico stands in Sunland Park, New Mexico, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, pledging to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A boundary marker stands next to a border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico in Sunland Park, New Mexico, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, pledging to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands for a photograph while keeping watch along the U.S. and Mexico border in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, pledging to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A suspected immigrant is escorted by the U.S. Border Patrol to a vehicle near the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. A security surge along the U.S.-Mexico border will use 'a military-style approach' with more Border Patrol agents, barriers and sensors and new authorities for law enforcement agencies, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said.

(Eddie Seal/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Border Patrol agents patrol the United States-Mexico Border wall during Opening the Door Of Hope/Abriendo La Puerta De La Esparana at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, California on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

(SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

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Clarita wrote that she has "suffered every day" since the incident, including difficulty sleeping and sometimes feeling like she "shouldn't be alive." She sought counseling to deal with the resulting trauma, but what she wants most is for the offending officer — and "any other CBP officer who commits this kind of abuse" — to be punished.

"CBP presumes that it is not subject to federal or state child protection laws, and this incident makes clear that at least some of its officers think they can commit sexual assault with impunity," Mitra Ebadolahi, staff attorney at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, said in a statement. "This must change."

When reached for comment, CBP released the following statement via email:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot comment on pending litigation; however, we take allegations of misconduct seriously and there is no room in CBP for the mistreatment or misconduct of any kind toward those in our custody. We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal administrative investigation of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty.

Clarita said she and her sister decided to pursue legal action in hopes of preventing what happened to them from happening to anyone else.

"What happened to us is NOT normal, it is NOT part of protocol and it is NOT legal," Clarita wrote. "No one, no matter the situation or their background, deserves to go through this."

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