ATLANTA – Ten women currently or previously detained at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia, today filed medical grievances with the Georgia Medical Composite Board seeking the revocation of a South Georgia doctor’s medical license for an alleged pattern of abuse. In the grievances, the women share their stories of surviving dangerous and abhorrent types of medical abuse, ranging from rough and painful examinations to undergoing medically unnecessary surgeries and other procedures without their consent, by gynecologist Mahendra Amin while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The medical grievances, filed by the women with assistance from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other advocates, shed light on the alleged abuses of Amin and the ICE detention system in which many medical abuses continue unabated.
“The pain was excruciating,” said one of the women, identified as Yanira, describing an appointment with Amin in February of 2020. “I have survived extreme sexual violence, and this felt like being raped again. I kept squirming up into the chair. I told him, ‘no,’ but he kept going.”
In multiple instances, Amin performed invasive medical procedures on Yanira, even after Yanira told Amin that all of her reproductive organs had previously been removed.
In declarations, the women depict a grim system in which violations of bodily autonomy and informed consent, unnecessary medical treatments, and rampant medical neglect are commonplace.
“He very quickly examined me – it was about three minutes total and he said I needed to have an operation, but I do not know for what,” described another woman, identified as Tatiana. “I asked for my records and my exam results for two months but did not receive them.” When Tatiana finally received the results, they revealed that she did not in fact need surgery.
“After the surgery, the nurse told me recovery would take about two weeks, and I was prescribed pain medicine,” described one woman, identified as Doreen, who had a procedure to remove a cyst by Amin in May of 2020. “I never received the pain medicine that I was prescribed at the detention center. The nurse told me that I would have a follow up with Dr. Amin in 14 days, but I never had a follow up.”
Attorneys with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative supported the women in filing the complaints after months of interviews with them. Of the women who filed complaints today, three have been deported, one has been released in the U.S., and six remain detained at ICDC. All of the grievances allege mistreatment in 2019 and 2020.
The complaints filed by the women also describe language barriers left unaddressed by doctors and prison guards.
“I had no idea what they were going to do with me because they were speaking to me in English, and I only speak Spanish,” said one woman, identified as Soraya. “They never used an interpreter. They also never asked about my medical history nor if I was allergic to anything.”
“He [Amin] did not explain anything, and he did not show me the picture from my ultrasound,” described Tatiana. “I did not understand what was happening or why – they did not have an interpreter for me. They did not give me any paperwork about the appointment or my diagnosis.”
Even in cases where there was no language barrier, the women describe being pressured and humiliated by Amin.
Amin allegedly tried to pressure one English-speaking woman, identified as L.S., into having a procedure to remove what he believed to be a tumor on her uterus. “He seemed angry that I did not want the surgery,” L.S. said. “I have asked repeatedly for a second opinion, but ICE has not taken me to see a different doctor. To this day I do not know if I have a tumor on [my] uterus or not.”
Many of the women say they want justice and accountability for the abuses they’ve endured. “I feel violated and betrayed by this doctor who I trusted to help me,” said Doreen. “I hope there will be justice for me and the other women.”
Yanira, who has been detained at ICDC since January of 2020, said, “They [ICE] don't want me to talk about the abuses that are taking place here at Irwin. But I feel like I must speak out, I want to tell the world that the women here at ICDC are human beings. We are women, not animals.”
L.S. said, “The way I was treated was wrong. I feel they tried to cut me into parts and send me back to my country. I want justice. I want to have good health again.”
“These women have shown tremendous courage in telling their stories and fighting to have their human rights recognized,” said Laura Rivera, director of the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. “On this Human Rights Day, we’re calling upon our communities and elected officials to address the appalling human rights abuses that occur at ICDC and at ICE facilities across the country. It’s past time these prisons are closed for good.”
“We are calling upon the Georgia Medical Board to revoke Amin’s license,” added Diego Sánchez, a direct services attorney for the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. “But these grievances really only scratch the surface of the human rights abuses that are all too common in ICE detention. This system was designed to dehumanize. And these abuses of reproductive rights, informed consent, and language access are endemic to ICE detention.”
Following a whistleblower complaint filed in September by Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, and Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, advocates have identified more than 40 women currently or previously detained at ICDC who describe coercive and abusive treatment by Amin. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security and Oversight Committees have since begun an investigation into the whistleblower complaint and medical abuses at the facility.