Lawyers representing a group of migrant women detained at a Georgia facility run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are seeking a class-action lawsuit as they allege "a disturbing pattern of inhumane medical abuse and mistreatment" that included forced hysterectomies, non-consensual procedures, and deportations as retaliation for speaking out about the wrongdoing.
The consolidated petition and complaint was filed Monday on behalf of 14 women at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Organizations representing the women include the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), Dreyer Sterling LLC, University of Georgia School of Law, and Project South.
The filing includes "extensive testimony from gynecological and mental health experts"as well as sworn testimony from more than 40 women, according to a statement from the lawyers.
This is the tip of the spear, but these actions were only possible because of a million words and actions that dehumanized immigrant women.
It’s on every one of us to change that and say no more.
— David Dreyer (@ddreyer) December 22, 2020
At issue is the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia and the alleged "non-consensual, medically unindicated, and/or invasive gynecological procedures" carried out by Dr. Mahendra Amin—procedures about which nurse Dawn Wooten blew the whistle. The filing also accuses Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and detention center officials of allowing the abuses to continue for years despite knowledge of what was happening.
"In many instances," the filing states, "the medically unindicated gynecological procedures respondent Amin performed on petitioners amounted to sexual assault."
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"Since at least 2018, women at ICDC have reported respondent Amin's abusive behavior to ICDC guards, officers, and medical staff, and to ICE employees. Respondents also knew that from 2013 to 2015, respondent Amin was investigated by the Department of Justice ('DOJ') for conducting medically unnecessary procedures. The abuses petitioners experienced by and/or under the direction, control, or authority of respondent Amin are part of a broader pattern and practice of medical abuse and mistreatment at ICDC," the document states.
Those who attempted to speak out about the abuses faced "a range of retaliatory actions," including being put in solitary confinement, being subjected to physical assault, having their access to communications cut off, and facing delays in delivery of their prescribed medications. They also faced deportations or the threat of deportation as retaliation.
The lawyers also filed a temporary restraining order calling for an end to the retaliation methods, including deportations, and for the women to be allowed to take part in the case or be released.
The women's advocates also called on the incoming Biden administration to close the facility and launch a probe of "all ICE officers and contractors who turned a blind eye against the abuse the women suffered under their supervision."
News of the alleged abuses at ICDC prompted outrage earlier this year from lawmakers and human rights groups.
Denise Bell, researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA, said in September that the allegations were "deeply alarming" and "demonstrate that the abusive practice of immigration detention in the United States cannot be continued."