Heinrich, Bicameral Group Of Democratic Colleagues Demand Trump Administration Halt Deportations Of Victims Of Medical Malpractice By ICE Doctor

Lawmakers denounce coverup preventing women from providing crucial evidence in ongoing investigations

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined a bicameral group of lawmakers in a push to demand that the Trump administration halt any and all plans to deport the dozens of women who have come forward to report unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures while detained at Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.

Reports of medical malpractice at ICDC first surfaced in September, when a whistleblower sounded the alarm about Dr. Mahendra Amin’s unethical treatment, which included non-consensual procedures, among them forced hysterectomies and sterilizations.

“In all, more than 43 women have reportedly alleged that they underwent nonconsensual and/or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while detained at ICDC. The DHS Office of the Inspector General has reportedly opened an investigation into these allegations, and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have reportedly opened parallel criminal investigations. Additionally, an independent group of medical experts have preliminarily found that many of these procedures were unnecessary and performed without informed consent,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite these ongoing investigations, at least six victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures have reportedly been deported.”

“Deporting these witnesses—especially when none of them have received independent physical or mental health evaluations by medical experts—may amount to a de facto destruction of evidence, as doing so substantially impedes the ability of these women to testify in any potential criminal or civil action. The deportation of potential witnesses interferes with law enforcement’s ability to engage in meaningful review of alleged criminal acts. Because these women have provided or are willing to provide useful assistance in a criminal investigation, they may be eligible for U nonimmigrant status,” the lawmakers continued.

The letters were sent to the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tony H. Pham, DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray.

The lawmakers requested that the administration immediately stay the removal of all women who have reported or witnessed allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, immediately stay the removal of all women who have had any appointments with Dr. Amin, and create a clear and transparent process by which all women detained at ICDC who have reported or witnessed medical abuse can identify themselves as witnesses to federal investigators.

In addition, the letter urged the administration to publicly commit to interviewing all women who submit medical records or testimony that credibly alleges medical abuse, to provide certifications for each woman who has reported allegations of medical abuse, to grant parole to women who reported allegations and have been deported, and to immediately release every woman who has reported relevant allegations of medical abuse at ICDC.

In September, Senator Heinrich joined Senate Democratic colleagues in a letter calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to expeditiously investigate the whistleblower complaint alleging medical neglect, unsafe work practices, and forced hysterectomies performed on vulnerable immigrant women in custody at ICDC.

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear Mr. Pham, Inspector General Cuffari, Assistant Attorney General Dreiband, and Director Wray:

We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately stay the removal of witnesses in the investigations into the provision of medical care at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.

At least eighteen women who were patients of Dr. Mahendra Amin remain detained at ICDC, and seven are currently at risk for removal. These women may provide crucial evidence to support ongoing investigations, and many allege that they are victims of disturbing forced medical procedures by Dr. Amin while in ICE’s custody and care. DHS and ICE have an obligation to ensure these women are given an opportunity to cooperate with law enforcement. Any removal of these witnesses could constitute interference with these investigations. In addition to staying these removals, we request that relevant law enforcement agencies provide I-918 Supplement B certification for any victim at ICDC who has provided or subsequently provides helpful evidence or testimony in these investigations, including victims who have already been deported, so that these witnesses have the opportunity to submit applications for U nonimmigrant status. Upon receipt of their application for U nonimmigrant status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), each must have their removal cases stayed and be immediately released from detention.

Since the initial whistleblower complaint, more women have come forward to report unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures while detained at ICDC. In all, more than 43 women have reportedly alleged that they underwent nonconsensual and/or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while detained at ICDC. The DHS Office of the Inspector General has reportedly opened an investigation into these allegations, and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have reportedly opened parallel criminal investigations. Additionally, an independent group of medical experts have preliminarily found that many of these procedures were unnecessary and performed without informed consent.

Despite these ongoing investigations, at least six victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures have reportedly been deported. Alma Bowman and Ana Cajigal Adan, key witnesses, have apparently come close to being deported. At least seven others are at imminent risk of deportation, despite the fact that investigators have not yet spoken to them. Out of the eighteen detained women at ICDC who say they have been victimized by Dr. Amin, only three have reportedly received an investigation interview request.

Deporting these witnesses—especially when none of them have received independent physical or mental health evaluations by medical experts—may amount to a de facto destruction of evidence, as doing so substantially impedes the ability of these women to testify in any potential criminal or civil action. The deportation of potential witnesses interferes with law enforcement’s ability to engage in meaningful review of alleged criminal acts. Because these women have provided or are willing to provide useful assistance in a criminal investigation, they may be eligible for U nonimmigrant status.

To remedy this situation, we request that you take the following six measures:

  • Immediately stay the removal of all women who have reported or witnessed allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC. Doing so merely complies with existing DHS guidance that a noncitizen participating in an active investigation should not be removed during the pendency of that investigation.
  • Immediately stay the removal of all women who have had any appointments, consultations, or surgeries with Dr. Amin, unless they affirm in writing following consultation with counsel that they decline to participate in the investigation. Notify each of these women in writing by no later than November 20, 2020 that their removal has been stayed because of their potential participation in this investigation.
  • Immediately create a clear and transparent process by which all women detained at ICDC who have reported or witnessed medical abuse at ICDC can identify themselves to federal investigators as witnesses.
  • Publicly commit to interviewing all women who submit medical records and/or testimony that credibly alleges medical abuse.
  • Provide certifications for each woman who has reported allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, has been the victim of qualifying criminal activity, and has been helpful to officials in the investigation of that criminal activity for purposes of a U visa. Those who still remain in the United States should be granted stays of removal, and released from detention pending their application for U nonimmigrant status being received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Those who have been deported should be granted parole into the United States, and likewise be permitted to reopen their removal orders while they pursue U nonimmigrant status.
  • Immediately release every woman who has reported relevant allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, in anticipation of their receipt of U nonimmigrant status.