Trump's DOJ Backs Down on Deporting Women Alleging ICE Gynecological Abuse

As many as a dozen women will have their deportations delayed until President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
November 24, 2020, 7:50pm
​Artwork depicting abuse created by women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
Artwork depicting abuse created by women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. (Credit: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights)

The Trump administration has agreed to delay the deportation of as many as a dozen women who alleged medical abuse at an ICE facility in Georgia until President-elect Joe Biden takes office, according to a court filing.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on Tuesday, amounts to a significant retreat by the government, which until last week was aggressively moving to deport women who spoke out about receiving gynecological procedures they received while detained at the Irwin County Detention Center, a privately-operated prison at the center of a sweeping abuse investigation.

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It’s a victory for the women, who allege they were given gynecological procedures which they did not consent to or understand. 

“This is an acknowledgement by the federal government that it is critically important that these women have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the federal investigation related to medical atrocities at Irwin,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School and a lawyer for two of the women alleging medical abuse. 

Woman Says Georgia ICE Facility Gave Her Unwanted Gynecological Surgery. Now She's Being Deported.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District Of Georgia declined to comment for the story. A spokeswoman for ICE said the agency “complies with all binding court orders.”

In the court filing, lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to halt deportation proceedings of at least four women until January 21, one day after Biden takes office: Mbeti Ndonga, who immigrated from Kenya as a toddler; Yanira Yessenia Oldaker, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3; Ana Cajigal Adan, who moved from Mexico when she was 6 months old; and J.R., who fled to the United States in 2016 while nine months pregnant after escaping an abusive partner.

They have all gone public with detailed allegations about gynecological procedures and surgeries by Dr. Mahendra Amin they said they didn’t want, didn’t understand, or found painful. One of the women compared her visit to Dr. Amin to being raped. Another says she was told that her “uterus was as big as a melon” and that she would never have children.

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Amin has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing.

Other women detained at Irwin who have “substantially similar factual allegations” will also be protected from immediate deportation, according to the joint motion filed by the government attorneys and lawyers for the women. 

The order doesn’t specify how many additional women detained at Irwin have similar allegations, but Mukherjee said there are “at least a dozen” and more are likely to come forward. 

“The women have been so brave in speaking out about medical abuses and atrocities at Irwin, knowing that they will be at grave risk of retaliation for doing so. Today’s agreement with the government offers them limited protections,” she said. 

That the government has agreed to halt deportations for the time being suggests it believes a Biden administration could take a different approach in the case, which has highlighted long-standing allegations of medical abuse and neglect at ICE facilities.

It also nods to the public pressure on the government to more thoroughly investigate. Last week, 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives and 30 senators signed on to a letter to senior officials with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI demanding that immigration officers pause the deportation of witnesses in the investigation.

There are ongoing investigations into the allegations against Amin by the Department of Homeland Security’s office of the inspector general, the FBI, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division, as well as allegations of mistreatment against multiple medical providers.