ICE Attempts to Deport Multiple Witnesses in Gynecologic Surgery Scandal

“They're getting rid of us,” a woman on the verge of being deported tells VICE News.
November 5, 2020, 2:43pm
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Photo of Irwin County Detention Center by Juanita Ceballos/VICE News

Ana Cajigal Adan is potentially a key witness in an ongoing congressional investigation into medical mistreatment at a Georgia ICE facility where detainees allege they were subjected to unneeded gynecologic surgeries without their consent. On Tuesday, she said, ICE notified her that she would be imminently deported to Mexico, a country she left when she was just six months old.

Adan, 25, is one of five women who tell VICE News that they were treated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, the gynecologist accused of mistreating more than 50 detainees, and say ICE deported or attempted to deport them before they were able to testify or fully testify. She was told Tuesday night that she would be deported; Congressman Hank Johnson stepped in to stop her deportation, but her lawyers still fear it could happen at any time.

“I've been writing letters to congressmen. I'm talking to my lawyer, to organizations. I'm willing to participate in any investigation that's going on,” Adan told VICE News from Irwin County Detention Center Tuesday night.

Immigration attorney Andrew Free, who is working with other attorneys to investigate widespread claims against Amin, said ICE is systematically getting rid of evidence. “There has been a policy choice to allow the system that deports people without allowing them to testify or allowing government to investigate what happened to them," Free, who says that even more women have been deported or moved toward deportation before they were able to fully testify, told VICE News. "The consequence is that they essentially complete the obstruction of evidence.”

“People who may be willing to speak up and speak out about what they suffered and to provide medical records about what they suffered are seeing what happens when you speak out when you make your name known. They’re thinking, 'Is this going to be something that could affect my deportation case? Is this something that could lead me to be permanently separated from my children?'”

“The women, like the girls that are speaking up, they're getting deported, like they're getting rid of them. They're getting rid of us,” Adan said.

ICE responded to VICE News' request for comment by directing us to a previous statement that indicates these allegations are concerning and should be investigated. 

An independent group of the country’s top OB-GYNs is, on behalf of immigration attorneys, reviewing the medical records of multiple patients who claim they were given unneeded surgery by Amin. Many of these women were told they had cysts and then, after being prescribed birth control, scheduled for cyst removal surgery, according to these women, their medical records and independent doctors. The team of medical experts has determined that a number of women at Irwin County Detention Center faced “pressure to have unnecessary surgery without a discussion of risks, benefits, or alternatives.” 

In a previous statement issued to VICE News, Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman said the medical records reviewed for this report were “severely incomplete, at best.” The report’s authors acknowledged they did not receive all of the patient’s medical records, but were confident in their damning conclusions. 

“Any serious medical professional would agree that one cannot possibly come to a conclusion regarding the appropriateness of a medical procedure without reviewing all of the relevant medical records, especially the records from the physician who performed the procedure and the hospital where the procedure was performed,” Amin’s attorney, Scott Grubman wrote. He added that Amin is cooperating with the investigation.

5 Women Recount Unwanted or Confusing Gynecological Surgeries in ICE Custody

One of the authors of the report told the Washington Post that Amin may have saved someone’s life in one instance, which is not mentioned in the report. 

“It's crazy because some girls went there for hiccups. Some went because of irregular periods. Some went for dryness,” said Adan. “Everybody that went there was told they had a cyst.”  

Adan was first detained at Irwin County Detention Center in February of this year. She described being escorted in through the back door of a hospital with two other women detainees. She said that Amin didn’t explain what he was doing or ask for her consent before he stuck a tool with a condom-like covering up her vaginal canal. He was “overly aggressive,” she said. When asked whether this could have been a transvaginal ultrasound, Adan said it could, but to this day, she does not know precisely what he did. After a few minutes, she said, Amin told Adan she had cysts and prescribed her birth control. 

“I was shocked because, like, first of all, he didn't explain to me what's the procedure that he was doing to me," she said. "And he was rough on me. There was a couple of times where I said, ouch.” Adan says she experienced pain afterward.

Grubman said in an email to VICE News that “Dr. Amin is legally prohibited from discussing this matter” due to federal law that prevents health care providers from discussing care without patient consent, and that he had requested that Adan sign a waiver which would allow Amin to respond.  Adan’s lawyer says getting this waiver signed is not an issue but as of press time neither she or VICE News had not been able to reach Grubman, despite trying for hours. 

Medical records reviewed by VICE News corroborate that Amin identified follicular cysts on Adan’s right ovary, which are common in ovulating women and do not require removal. Adan says she went to see a different OB-GYN six weeks after her appointment with Amin, who told her that she did not have any cysts.

In her early 20s, Adan said, she spent roughly two years in Mexico and experienced trauma after being sexually assaulted. It’s part of why she’s terrified to be sent back to Guerrero, often referred to as the epicenter of organized crime in Mexico and listed by the State Department as a "Do Not Travel" state. The other reason is that Mexico is foreign to her, and America is home.

“I grew up here. This is all I know, this is where my heart is at. This is where my family is at, you know?” Adan said. “This is where everything is at. So it's kind of devastating.

"I just want everybody to know that we're humans, you know? And that we deserve to be with our family. We deserve to be with our loved ones."