Attorneys and attorneys working with migrant women who claim they had undergone excessively aggressive, undesirable, or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while in ICE detention said federal investigators are excluding witnesses and setting them up for deportation.
The number of migrant women who allegedly performed non-consensual or medically unnecessary gynecological interventions by Mahendra Amin while imprisoned at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia has grown to at least 43. Of those, 16 women remain in prison, and only federal investigators have received questioning, according to Caitlin Lowell, a law student at Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic who works with this group of detainees.
Seven of the 15 women are due to be deported from ICE in the next two weeks without speaking to investigators, Lowell said.
“It’s like ICE is trying to clear the house before the new administration comes in by deporting as many of these witnesses as soon as possible,” Lowell told BuzzFeed News. “At the very least, every ICE woman has a record stating that she has received medical attention from Dr. Amin and claims that no consent or medically unnecessary surgery or procedure should be asked, and it did not.”
In a statement, ICE said any implication that the federal immigration enforcement agency attempted to obstruct the investigation by deporting respondents is “totally wrong”.
But that leaves out women who lawyers said were victims of the gynecologist who were not interviewed or who the Justice Department may not interview, Lowell said.
Lowell said the current facility enables the federal government investigating allegations of abuse of women under their care to turn away potential witnesses.
Since the whistleblower complaint, containing allegations of undesirable gynecological surgery, was filed with the Inspectorate General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in September, at least six women who claim to be victims of Amin have been deported, Lowell said. Four spoke briefly to the Justice Department and two did not.
One woman, Lowell said, was overturned immediately after an interview with investigators that didn’t go through everything. The woman had a second interview on Tuesday, but Lowell was told that her deportation is still scheduled for an undisclosed date.
In a statement, ICE said it was fully cooperating with the investigations by DHS OIG and the Department of Civil Rights of the Justice Department.
“ICE has informed DHS OIG … of planned transfers or relocations of Irwin inmates who were former patients of Dr. Amin’s and supports the efforts of both DHS OIG and the DOJ Civil Rights Division,” said a spokesman for said the federal agency.
Amin has denied the allegations through his attorney and did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
BuzzFeed News previously reported on women who said Amin performed medical procedures on them without their consent.
Elora Mukherjee, director of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, which works with women at the Irwin County Detention Center, said the deportations and attempted removals made victims and Witnesses less likely to want to cooperate with investigators because of fear of retaliation.
Earlier this month, Intercept reported that Alma Bowman – an ICE prisoner who was a key witness for Amin’s lawyers and journalists who carried out the allegedly unnecessary or overly aggressive trials – was almost deported.
VICE News also reported that another potential witness in Amin’s investigation last week was almost deported until Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, intervened.
Not only should the women not be deported, Mukherjee said, but the government should also give those participating in the investigation a document they need to apply for a special crime victim visa to get information against Amin . The “U-Visa” gives undocumented immigrants who report crimes and work with law enforcement agencies a route to permanent residence.
In order to apply for the visa, immigrants must obtain a certificate from law enforcement that they have helped the authorities prosecute their abuser.
Mukherjee said attorneys have repeatedly asked the federal government for law enforcement certificates for the women helping the investigation, but they have not received them.
The certification that would enable them to initiate the “U-Visa” procedure does not guarantee protection against deportation, but it is more than that of women at present.
“It’s really horrific,” Mukherjee told BuzzFeed News. “They are afraid of retaliation, they have seen what happened to other women. And if they come forward, the investigators will not offer them any protection. It is outrageous.”
Yanira – a 36-year-old Mexican who only asked to be mentioned by her first name on privacy concerns – said she was due to be deported Monday morning, a few days after federal investigators were notified that she and 15 other women were currently on ICE -Patients in detention were not given consensual and physically aggressive gynecological treatment by Amin.
She was on a tarmac about to fly when her deportation was prevented by her Columbia legal team, preventing her from returning to a country she had not been to since she was three.
Yanira was transferred from prison to ICE custody on December 26, 2019 after pleading guilty to a minor drug charge. She had had a hysterectomy prior to the transfer and soon began to suffer from hot flashes and fatigue. She asked for medication to control her symptoms.
The first time she saw Amin was on February 6, 2020, according to court records. Amin said she wanted to do a vaginal ultrasound. After that, Amin stuck several gloved fingers into her vagina. It felt too deep and caused burning pain, she said. BuzzFeed News reviewed medical files confirming that Amin performed an ultrasound that day.
Yanira said she said “no” repeatedly, but Amin did not stop. For two days after the examination, Yanira said she was bleeding and was released. She was in pain for seven days and had to take pain medication.
On September 8, 2020, Yanira saw Amin again to refill the medication he had previously prescribed for her. A nurse told Yanira she needed a pap smear and told her to undress. The Pap smear was painful. Afterward, when Yanira was cleaning up, she noticed she was bleeding and said Amin did not apply any lubricant to the metal device that was used to open her vagina.
“It broke through the skin a little and rubbed it raw. The force he put into it just pushed it in and that’s why I felt so sore and swollen,” Yanira told BuzzFeed News.
Yanira said she bled for about two days and was in pain for about a week. She said she had to take ibuprofen, which she bought from the commissioner, to relieve the pain.
“I want to speak to investigators because I don’t believe the way we were treated was right and ICE needs to learn how to be treated properly,” said Yanira. “We are people with feelings, with families that are important to us. We are not animals.”
In addition to being able to speak to investigators, Yanira hopes to be released to the United States to see her 11-year-old daughter, who has developed depression and anxiety since her mother was imprisoned.
Yanira has a hearing in front of a federal judge on Friday who will hear arguments about the injunction her legal team has filed to stop her deportation. The lawsuit states that Yanira has the right to speak to investigators about the abuse she has suffered by ICE and its contractors.
“If I was deported, I wouldn’t be able to talk to investigators about what happened and tell people how this doctor actually abused me,” she said.