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U.S. immigration officials released a 39-year-old woman who spoke out about receiving a gynecological operation she says she didn’t understand while in custody, the woman’s lawyer told VICE News Tuesday.
The Monday release of Mileidy Cardentey Fernandez occurred the same day VICE News reported on the accounts of Cardentey and four other women describing their experiences at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. The five women claimed to have undergone gynecological operations they either didn’t seek or didn’t fully understand while in detention.
The Irwin facility is run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections and houses immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). VICE News did not verify allegations that widespread hysterectomies took place at Irwin.
Cardentey — who had been held since February, according to her lawyer — became the second former Irwin detainee to be released within three days, following the eruption of a political firestorm over a whistleblower complaint on Sept. 14 that alleged a pattern of “jarring medical neglect” and confusing medical care at Irwin — as well as a disproportionately high number of hysterectomies.
Pauline Binam, 30, the first woman to go public with claims about her experience in Irwin, was released from an ICE detention facility in Texas on Saturday.
Binam’s attorney, Van Huynh, has said Binam believed she was getting a relatively routine procedure known as a dilation and curettage, which involves dilating the cervix and scraping the uterine lining. During a follow-up appointment the doctor later told Binam he’d clipped and tied one of her fallopian tubes, Huynh said. Binam hasn’t had a period since, according to Huynh.
Cardentey’s lawyer, Alexis Ruiz, said Cardentey was released on an “order of supervision,” meaning she must continue to report to ICE. The agency is working to secure documents for her return to her native Cuba, Ruiz said. Ruiz said Cardentey wants to remain in the U.S.
Cardentey told VICE News in a phone interview from the Irwin facility on Friday that she had a gynecological operation she didn’t fully understand in August.
A spokesperson for LaSalle Corrections told VICE News on Monday that the whistleblower’s allegations are under investigation.
“We can assure you the allegations are being investigated by an independent office, and we are confident once the facts are made public our commitment to the highest quality care will be evident,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
ICE Acting Director Tony H. Pham said in a statement on Monday that the allegations in “the whistleblower complaint raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.”
Pham added: “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.”