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A participant holding a sign at the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge facing the rush hour traffic in July 2020. Members of the activist group Rise and Resist gathered at the plaza by the Manhattan side entrance to the Manhattan Bridge during rush hour holding signs and banners protesting the incarceration of immigrants by CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'This Fight Is Not Over': Activists Help ICE Detainee Avoid Deportation Following Alleged Sterilization Procedure at Georgia Facility

Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian who has lived in the U.S. since the age of two, was detained at an ICE facility where her fallopian tubes were removed, allegedly without her consent.

Lisa Newcomb

Immigrant rights advocates Wednesday praised efforts that helped a woman detained in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility temporarily avoid deportation, potentially paving the way for her to corroborate evidence that she and other women at an ICE detention center received unwarranted procedures including hysterectomies while in custody, and allowing her to continue her legal fight against deportation.

"We just got Pauline off the plane," Mijente, a Latinx advocacy group tweeted Wednesday afternoon, referring to a commercial flight Pauline Binam had been on, presumably to be deported.

Binam, who is Black, is originally from Cameroon and has lived in the United States since she was two years old. According to reporting from Democracy Now!, she has been detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia for three years. Last fall, according to a document shared by Mijente, Binam went to a gynecologist at the facility for a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, often used to remove tissue from a woman's uterus, but ended up having a salpingectomy, a procedure that removes one or both fallopian tubes, without her consent.

"With partners at Cameroon American Council, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and Mijente [and Rev.] Leeann Culbreath we are happy to report Victory!," R. Andrew Free, an immigration and civil rights attorney tweeted. "ICE took Pauline off a commercial flight this morning. Thank you to all who took action. This fight is not over."

Celebrations are temporary, however, as disturbing details continue to emerge following the Monday release of a whistleblower complaint that alleged "jarring medical neglect" relating to Covid-19 safety protocols and procedures as well as a high number of hysterectomies performed on women detained at the facility. Congressional lawmakers called for an investigation into the matter late Tuesday. 

In related news, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune reported Monday that ICE had deported a detainee who was "a crucial witness in an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment at an El Paso immigrant detention center." The 35-year-old woman was detained in the Texas facility, and alleged a "pattern and practice" of abuse there including sexual assault, and that some assaults happened in surveillance camera blind spots.

"The short history of DHS has been filled with violence, fear-stoking, and a lack of oversight. Dismantle it," the ACLU tweeted Wednesday, renewing its call to break up the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part.

Amnesty International joined the ACLU in demanding action.

"Unfortunately, the United States has a history of forced sterilization, including of Indigenous women, Black women and other women of color, incarcerated women, and intersex people," the group said in a statement Wednesday. "In addition to a violation of a person's rights to health and safety and sexual and reproductive rights, forced sterilization can constitute a crime against humanity under international law. No one should be sterilized without their full consent, and people should be not be detained for seeking asylum."

"As a first step, Congress and the DHS must both urgently investigate these allegations," Amnesty added. "These horrifying allegations demonstrate that the abusive practice of immigration detention in the United States cannot be continued. We renew our call to the administration to free people in immigration detention."

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