Tameika Lovell was retrieving luggage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport when Customs and Border Protection officers detained her for a random search. It was Nov. 27, 2016, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and the school counselor from Long Island had just returned from a short Jamaica vacation. Lovell, who is black, had been stopped before, but this time a CBP supervisor began asking questions she hadn’t heard previously.
“Don’t you think you’re spending too much money traveling?” Lovell, 34, recalls a CBP supervisor asking.
What happened next is the subject of a harrowing lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Inside a secure room, Lovell’s litigation alleges, a female CBP officer searched Lovell’s belongings, presumably for illegal drugs, and asked if she was using a tampon or sanitary pad. The question upset her, but Lovell replied “no” and complied when told to remove her shoes, lift her arms and spread her legs.