[Pnews] Number of Women Alleging Misconduct by ICE Gynecologist Nearly Triples

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 28 12:25:41 EDT 2020

of Women Alleging Misconduct by ICE Gynecologist Nearly Triples
John Washington - October 27, 2020

*At least 17* women treated by a doctor alleged to have performed
unnecessary or overly aggressive gynecological procedures without proper
informed consent remain in detention at Irwin County Detention Center, a
privately run facility in Georgia housing U.S. Immigrations and Customs
Enforcement detainees, according to a briefing and written materials
submitted by attorneys and advocates to Senators in a closed-door meeting
on Capitol Hill. The total number of women known to have been seen by the
doctor since 2018 who say they underwent or were pressured to undergo
unnecessary treatments has risen to 57 — a higher number than previously
known — according to the group of lawyers.

The new numbers of relevant cases and women who remain in detention were
included in the materials submitted to the closed-door meeting on Capitol
Hill about the ordeal over women’s medical care at Irwin. Organized by the
Senate Democratic Caucus, attorney Sarah Owings of Owings MacNorlin law
firm in Atlanta, two women previously detained in Irwin, and four
independent doctors presented recent findings, including more than 60 pages
of written materials, in a Monday briefing for the senators. The briefings
came as part of Congressional investigations into the allegation, which
Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress have pledged to look in to.

As the number of women alleging
medical misconduct at Irwin, which is run by the private prison company
LaSalle Corrections, grows, advocates for detainees worry that there may
never be a full accounting. The numbers presented to the Senate on Monday
were limited to only those cases lawyers could identify, the advocates
said. Because of the opacity of the immigration system and the constant
flux of detainees — as well as the deportation of witnesses and survivors —
a comprehensive review is unlikely.

“It pains me to know that there could be many more women out there who will
never be able to talk about what happened to them.”

“It pains me to know that there could be many more women out there who will
never be able to talk about what happened to them and the abuse that they
suffered while at Irwin, let alone receive a measure of redress, while
living with the life-long damage to their bodies and spirits,” said Azadeh
Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director of Project South, which first
raised the issues in a whistleblower complaint. “ICE and the private prison
corporation LaSalle must be held to account.”

In the Senate briefing, the doctors and former detainees outlined a pattern
of gynecological operations conducted by Dr. Mahendra Amin, the doctor at
the center of the allegations, and the “uniform absence of truly informed
consent,” according to materials submitted on Capitol Hill by the coalition
of attorneys, advocates, and women recently detained in Irwin. After
of the medical abuses came to light
in September, following the whistleblower complaint first reported
by The Intercept, ICE said it stopped referring patients to Amin.

The materials submitted to Congress were compiled by on-the ground
organizations; attorneys, including Owings; and advocates, led by the South
Georgia Immigrant Support Network, Project South, the Georgia Latino
Alliance for Human Rights, Georgia Detention Watch, and the Southern
Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative.

In response to an inquiry from The Intercept about the growing numbers of
women alleging medical misconduct and congressional interest in the case,
Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman, sent a statement responding to a Los Angeles
Times story
last week about a medical review of some of the immigration detainees’
cases. In the statement, Grubman, who said the doctor could not comment on
individual cases because of privacy regulations, claims that there are
“serious questions to the veracity” of the LA Times reporting, specifically
citing that the team of medical experts didn’t request medical records from
Irwin County Hospital or Amin himself. (Records of medical procedures are
also maintained by ICE and can be requested by attorneys or detainees.)

Grubman, who did not respond to specific follow-up questions from The
Intercept, has maintained throughout the ordeal that Amin is cooperating
with investigators and that the doctor will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Mounting Allegations

The widespread attention on the women at Irwin has amplified calls for
better medical care in immigration detention, where there has been a
dramatic increase in deaths
the past year. Advocates for immigration detainees have long complained of
dangerously poor medical care in the sprawling patchwork of often privately
run detention facilities.

Initial reports estimated that 20 or more women detained in Irwin had
undergone full or partial hysterectomies in the last six years. Amin and
his attorney dispute the claims. New information collected by attorneys and
advocates who spoke with The Intercept — and who presented their findings
to the Senate, including the written materials, which The Intercept
reviewed — points to a broader pattern of women being pressured to undergo
potentially unnecessary procedures.

Overall, the attorneys counted 57 confirmed patients of Amin, 17 of whom
remain at Irwin as of October 25. (The Intercept was able to speak with
attorneys who represented at least 52 of those women.) None of them have
received any follow-up gynecological care since ICE stopped sending
patients to Amin five weeks ago.

“The recent allegations by the independent contracted employee raise some
very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and
thoroughly,” said Tony Pham, ICE’s acting director, in a statement to The
Intercept. Pham said ICE welcomes efforts of both the Department of
Homeland Security, ICE’s parent agency, as well as the department’s Office
of Inspector General to investigate. The statement concluded, “If there is
any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections
necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and
safety of ICE detainees.”

The Senate briefing comes on the heels of an independent medical review
led by the ALLGOOD Foundation. The review, which was first reported in the
LA Times article, was conducted by nine board-certified OB-GYNs and two
nursing experts who reviewed over 3,200 pages of medical records for 19 of
the women who had alleged medical misconduct by Amin. The team, according
to their report, found “a disturbing pattern of aggressive treatment,
including ‘overcalling’ the need for invasive surgeries, unwarranted
pressure to undergo surgery, and a failure to obtain informed consent.”
“Not Something You Can Go Back From”

Over the past five weeks, since the whistleblower complaint emerged, a
steady stream of women who visited with Amin have shared their stories with
the press. One, Jamileth, whose name has been changed for fear of
retaliation, told The Intercept that Amin did procedures on her without
getting her permission. In May, amid a nine-month stint at Irwin, she began
experiencing stomach pain and irregular periods. The ICE detention center
sent her to Amin.

“He treated me in a very — well, in a very rough way.”

“He did a vaginal ultrasound, but he didn’t ask me if I wanted one or not.
He just did it,” Jamileth told The Intercept in Spanish. “I don’t know, he
treated me in a very — well, in a very rough way.”

According to Jamileth, Amin said she had an ovarian cyst. She said he asked
if he could give her an injection — Jamileth does not know for what — and
then suggested surgery to remove the cyst. Jamileth refused both the
injection and the operation, saying she needed to consult with her family
first. In the end, she refused to see Amin again.

“I didn’t want to return, because I had seen other examples,” Jamileth
said, explaining that she had seen other women in detention after visits
with Amin. She described, in one instance, seeing a woman return from
surgery: “She was bleeding through the wound, she was purple, black in her
stomach, and it looked really bad.”

Several women told their attorneys they were prescribed Depo-Provera, a
hormonal birth control shot with sometimes serious side effects, without
their consent. One woman, after her operation and shot of Depo-Provera, was
“still unclear what exactly happened to her body,” according to the
briefing materials provided to Senate Democrats. There were a number of
cases that resulted in lasting confusion. One woman was deported to El
Salvador and thinks that she had a hysterectomy but remains unsure,
according to the materials provided to senators.

Another woman went to Amin for pain she suspected resulted from having
fibroid cysts removed from her uterus before her time in detention,
according to the Senate briefing. Amin administered three shots to her,
explaining they were “for the pain,” according to her recollection in the
briefing. Only after she was returned to Irwin did she learn from a nurse
there that she had been given Depo-Provera.

When the woman asked about the shots at a follow-up appointment, Amin got
defensive. “I’m trying to help you,” he said, according to the testimony in
the briefing. He later pressured her into submitting to a hysterectomy, the
testimony said, telling the detainee, “You’re an old woman, why would you
want to have more babies?” She refused the surgery.

Yet another woman said she felt lucky when she was diagnosed with Covid-19
— the detention center failed to take basic precautionary measures, refused
to test symptomatic detainees, and underreported cases of Covid-19,
according to the earlier whistleblower report
— and her hysterectomy was delayed. ”I felt like I didn’t have control over
my life,” she said. She eventually refused the surgery and was deported.

[image: The War on Immigrants]Read Our Complete CoverageThe War on
Immigrants <https://theintercept.com/collections/the-war-on-immigrants/>

The medical review of pathology reports conducted by ALLGOOD showed “a
pattern of overly aggressive care,” including “inappropriate, unconsented
transvaginal procedures,” “exaggerated interpretations of imaging results,”
and less invasive methods not being pursued.

Attorney Benjamin Osorio, who represents two of the women tallied in the
Senate briefing, said in an interview with The Intercept that one of his
clients was told a hysterectomy was the only possible option to remove a
possibly cancerous cyst. “There are less invasive, less aggressive
treatments, but he took out her whole reproductive system,” Osorio
explained “That’s not something you can go back from.”

The Intercept spoke to Yuridia, who was deported three days after
undergoing an operation she said she did not comprehend and did not consent
to. She was dumped into Mexico not knowing what happened to her, still
bleeding, wondering if she still had a uterus, her attorney Kathleen Hoyos
told The Intercept. It was a month before Yuridia, who asked to be
identified by her first name because of an ongoing immigration case, was
able to see a gynecologist in Mexico and learn what had happened to her.
(She had been given a shot of a hormonal contraceptive and underwent a
dilation and curettage to remove a cyst.) Hoyos said, “All she knew was
what happened to her was wrong.”
Deportations Concern Congress

Since the initial whistleblower report was submitted in September, ICE has
deported at least five women who were seen by Amin. At least two more women
may be deported this week, according to the Senate briefing. “ICE, LaSalle,
and DHS are ensuring fewer witnesses are able to participate in the pending
federal investigation,” the Senate briefing materials say.

“We need a full accounting of what has been done to the women at Irwin, so
we can hold perpetrators of any horrific actions accountable.”

Members of Congress are taking note. “Advocates have shared with my team
that many of the women who questioned Dr. Amin’s advice were quickly
deported, and that many others at the facility are now fearful of seeking
medical care at all,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement to The
Intercept. “We need a full accounting of what has been done to the women at
Irwin, so we can hold perpetrators of any horrific actions accountable, and
give the American people the answers they deserve.”

Last Friday, eight members of Congress, including Reps. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; and
Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., sent a letter
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
outlining concerns about gynecological procedures on women in Irwin. They
requested that Bachelet lead an investigation into the procedures conducted
on immigrant women.

“These allegations illustrate a clear pattern of alleged human rights
violations by DHS,” the letter says. “This pattern of behavior is
perpetuated and encouraged by the consistent and unforgivable failure of
the United States government and its institutions to take these allegations
seriously by investigating them in a transparent, thorough, and impartial

Last week, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., also sent a letter to ICE
along with Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., demanding that
Irwin be shut down.

One detained woman quoted in Monday’s Senate briefing materials also called
for Irwin to be shut down, adding, “We could die locked up in here.”
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