Lawyers denounce abuse of migrant women by gynecologist for Georgia’s ICE detention center
WASHINGTON – A nurse who worked at an immigration and customs detention center in Irwin County, Georgia, and four attorneys representing clients say immigrant women are routinely referred to a gynecologist who left them bruised and performed unnecessary procedures, including hysterectomies.
The doctor, who three attorneys identified as Dr Mahendra Amin, practicing in Douglas, Ga., Has continued to see women in the Irwin County Detention Center in recent years despite complaints from his patients.
Amin was investigated by the Department of Justice in 2015 for making false claims to Medicaid and Medicare. Therefore, he and other medics involved paid $ 525,000 as part of a civil settlement, according to the Department of Justice.
Lawyers identified the doctor after a whistleblower complaint to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General was filed by Dawn Wooten, who worked as a nurse inside the facility. She said in the complaint that the detainees were not undergoing Covid-19 tests and other necessary medical care. The complaint was first reported by the Intercept.
Wooten worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia until his demotion in July.
The complaint cites both allegations of unidentified detained immigrants and Wooten.
The facility houses immigrants detained in the custody of the ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It also houses inmates from Irwin County and the US Marshals Service.
Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed a complaint on behalf of immigrants detained at the center and Wooten.
Wooten was demoted in July from a full-time nurse to “as needed” after missing her job because she was showing symptoms of coronavirus. She said she believed the demotion was in retaliation for raising concerns about the coronavirus protocol, according to the complaint.
She also said that there was not enough active testing on immigrant inmates for the coronavirus and that the facility was not “reporting all of these positive cases,” meaning the number of cases in the facility was possibly much higher than that reported by ICE. .
Elizabeth Mathren, a lawyer who represented several women who saw Amin through her work with the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she was employed from 2017 to 2019, said she filed a complaint with managers at the detention center.
“Two or three years ago I had a face-to-face conversation with (someone from management). I was so confused. I begged her to have my client treated with a different doctor. I told him that I had heard from several people. that he was hard, that they were afraid to go to him, that they didn’t understand what he was doing, ”said Elizabeth Mathren, who represented several women through her work with the Southern Poverty Law Center in from 2017.
Mathren, she has had at least one client report of bruising after being examined by Amin.
But Mathren said immigrant women were continually being sent to Amin, despite concerns. The establishment is under private contract by LaSalle Corrections.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said, “LaSalle Corrections maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for any type of inappropriate behavior in our facilities and takes all allegations of such mistreatment seriously. Our company strongly refutes these claims. allegations and any implication of fault to ICDT. “
In a statement, an attorney for Amin said, “We are aware of the whistleblower’s allegations regarding Dr. Amin and vehemently deny them. Dr Amin is a well-respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a risky, underserved population in rural Georgia. “
“We look forward to the release of all facts and are confident that once they do, Dr Amin will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
Benjamin Osorio, another lawyer representing women at the Irwin County facility, said two of his clients had had hysterectomies that they believed were unnecessary.
One of the women, of childbearing age, learned she was due to have a hysterectomy after Amin found ovarian cysts, Osorio said. She was told they were cancerous, but her records indicate that she did not receive a biopsy to confirm the cancer, he said. In another case, he said, his client was told she had stage 4 cervical cancer and would need a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. But after her hysterectomy, an oncologist in Charlotte said she didn’t have cancer, according to Osorio.
Another lawyer, Sarah Owings, said she has heard from many women who are told they have ovarian cysts that need to be removed or drained.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily systemic sterilization by ICE. I think it’s the kind of thing that is allowed to flourish under poor surveillance and terrible and inhumane confinement conditions,” he said. said Owings.
In her complaint, Wooten said some of her patients told her they were afraid to go to a doctor they called the “uterus collector,” according to the complaint.
In an interview with NBC News, Wooten said, “I had an inmate who asked me, she said, ‘What is she doing Mrs. Wooten, collecting all of our wombs? “And I just looked at her puzzled because I didn’t have an answer.”
“The shocking new revelations of abuse against women’s bodies must lead to the immediate closure of this horrific facility,” Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South, said in a statement. “ICE and the private prison society must be held accountable.”
In a statement responding to Wooten’s allegations, an ICE spokesperson said: “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on issues presented to the Office of Inspector General, which assures independent oversight and accountability within the US Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and relies on the OIG regarding any potential investigation and / or outcome. However, in general, anonymous allegations and unproven, made without any verifiable details, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve. “
Responding to the lawyers’ allegations about the medical procedures, Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said: “All female ICE detainees receive routine, adequate gynecological and obstetrical health care. at their age, in accordance with recognized community guidelines for women’s health. services.”
According to data from the ICE (Immigration and Enforcement) in the United States, since 2018, only two people from the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to certified and accredited healthcare professionals in healthcare facilities. gynecological and obstetrical health care for hysterectomies, according to the National Correctional Health Care Commission (Based on their evaluations, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations have been reviewed by the clinical authority of the institution and approved. “
She added: “Out of respect for the process of pending cases before the OIG, ICE does not prematurely comment on reported allegations, and ICE intends to cooperate fully with any resulting investigation by the OIG. . “
The agency said it is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of those in its care and that its facilities are subject to regular inspections. The Irwin County Detention Center was repeatedly found to be operating according to ICE performance standards, the agency said.
Shredding medical request forms
Wooten alleged in his complaint that the men and women at the detention center “overwhelmingly said they had not been tested for Covid-19 from March to August 18,” when people at the ICE center were given the opportunity to get tested.
One woman reported that 100 women slept in a unit where the women “coughed, had fever and other ailments, but officers did not listen to them when they reported their health problems”, and that they did not listen to them. ‘had never been tested for Covid-19, according to the complaint.
“After demanding that the sick women be taken to the medical unit, she reported that the women were finally taken but were brought back within an hour and they had just been given painkillers,” said the complaint.
Wooten also claimed that it was common for a sick nurse to shred medical request forms from inmates asking to go to the medical unit and fabricate records such as vital signs without seeing the patient asking for help. , according to the complaint.
ICE said in its spokesperson’s statement that its epidemiologists are continuously monitoring the outbreak, regularly updating its infection prevention and control protocols, and providing advice to staff on managing potential exposure. inmates.
The ICE said on its website as of September 13, there were 42 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its inmates at the Irwin County Detention Center and 5,772 across all of its facilities, with six deaths in total.