Merkley, Blumenthal, Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez Demand Trump Administration Halt Deportations of Victims of Medical Malpractice by ICE Doctor

Merkley, Blumenthal, Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez Demand Trump Administration Halt Deportations of Victims of Medical Malpractice by ICE Doctor

Lawmakers denounce coverup preventing women from providing crucial evidence in ongoing investigations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), today led a push to demand that the Trump administration halt any and all plans to deport the dozens of women who have come forward to report unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures while detained at Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.

Merkley, Blumenthal, Jayapal and Ocasio-Cortez were joined by 28 Senators and 73 Representatives, including Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Reports of medical malpractice at ICDC first surfaced in September, when a whistleblower sounded the alarm about Dr. Mahendra Amin’s unethical treatment, which included non-consensual procedures, among them forced hysterectomies and sterilizations.

“In all, more than 43 women have reportedly alleged that they underwent nonconsensual and/or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while detained at ICDC.[1] The DHS Office of the Inspector General has reportedly opened an investigation into these allegations, and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have reportedly opened parallel criminal investigations.[2] Additionally, an independent group of medical experts have preliminarily found that many of these procedures were unnecessary and performed without informed consent,[3]the lawmakers wrote. “Despite these ongoing investigations, at least six victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures have reportedly been deported.[4]

“Deporting these witnesses—especially when none of them have received independent physical or mental health evaluations by medical experts—may amount to a de facto destruction of evidence, as doing so substantially impedes the ability of these women to testify in any potential criminal or civil action. The deportation of potential witnesses interferes with law enforcement’s ability to engage in meaningful review of alleged criminal acts. Because these women have provided or are willing to provide useful assistance in a criminal investigation, they may be eligible for U nonimmigrant status,” the lawmakers continued.

The letters were sent to the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tony H. Pham, DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray.

The lawmakers requested that the administration immediately stay the removal of all women who have reported or witnessed allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, immediately stay the removal of all women who have had any appointments with Dr. Amin, and create a clear and transparent process by which all women detained at ICDC who have reported or witnessed medical abuse can identify themselves as witnesses to federal investigators.

In addition, the letter urged the administration to publicly commit to interviewing all women who submit medical records or testimony that credibly alleges medical abuse, to provide certifications for each woman who has reported allegations of medical abuse, to grant parole to women who reported allegations and have been deported, and to release immediately every woman who has reported relevant allegations of medical abuse at ICDC.

Senator Merkley has been a vocal advocate for the woman at ICDC. Previous steps taken by Merkley include pressing the Trump administration for more details regarding the initial whistleblower complaint, a push—which Senator Blumenthal joined—for a thorough and fair investigation into the allegations, and a demand for an additional investigation into systemic civil rights violations regarding medical care for detainees.

The members of Congress were joined by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Mark Warner (D-VA), and U.S. Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Karen Bass (D-CA-37), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA-8), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), André Carson (D-IN-7), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), David N. Cicilline (D-RI-1), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-9), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO-5), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA-11), Jim Cooper (D-TN-5), J. Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Jason Crow (D-CO-6), Val Demings (D-FL-10), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Dwight Evans (D-PA-3), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Dwight Evans (D-PA-3), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Jesus "Chuy" García (D-IL-4), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34), Al Green (D-TX-9), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3), Deb Haaland (D-NM-1), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL-20), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA-4), Joseph P. Kennedy (D-MA-4), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Daniel T. Kildee (D-MI-5), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Doris Matsui (D-CA-6), James P. McGovern (D-MA-2), Grace Meng (D-NY-6), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA-32), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-AL), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Mark Pocan (D-WI-2), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-1), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA-28), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-5), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Albio Sires (D-NJ-8), Adam Smith (D-WA-9), Darren Soto (D-FL-9), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), Tom Suozzi (D-NY-3), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15), Mark Takano (D-CA-41), Mike Thompson (D-CA-5), Dina Titus (D-NV-1), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Norma J. Torres (D-CA-35), Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-7), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), and Peter Welch (D-VT-AL).

The full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

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Dear Mr. Pham, Inspector General Cuffari, Assistant Attorney General Dreiband, and Director Wray:

 

We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately stay the removal of witnesses in the investigations into the provision of medical care at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.

 

At least eighteen women who were patients of Dr. Mahendra Amin remain detained at ICDC, and seven are currently at risk for removal.  These women may provide crucial evidence to support ongoing investigations, and many allege that they are victims of disturbing forced medical procedures by Dr. Amin while in ICE’s custody and care. DHS and ICE have an obligation to ensure these women are given an opportunity to cooperate with law enforcement. Any removal of these witnesses could constitute interference with these investigations. In addition to staying these removals, we request that relevant law enforcement agencies provide I-918 Supplement B certification for any victim at ICDC who has provided or subsequently provides helpful evidence or testimony in these investigations, including victims who have already been deported, so that these witnesses have the opportunity to submit applications for U nonimmigrant status. Upon receipt of their application for U nonimmigrant status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), each must have their removal cases stayed and be immediately released from detention.

 

Since the initial whistleblower complaint, more women have come forward to report unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures while detained at ICDC. In all, more than 43 women have reportedly alleged that they underwent nonconsensual and/or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while detained at ICDC.[5] The DHS Office of the Inspector General has reportedly opened an investigation into these allegations, and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have reportedly opened parallel criminal investigations.[6] Additionally, an independent group of medical experts have preliminarily found that many of these procedures were unnecessary and performed without informed consent.[7]

 

Despite these ongoing investigations, at least six victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures have reportedly been deported.[8] Alma Bowman and Ana Cajigal Adan, key witnesses, have apparently come close to being deported.[9] At least seven others are at imminent risk of deportation, despite the fact that investigators have not yet spoken to them.[10] Out of the eighteen detained women at ICDC who say they have been victimized by Dr. Amin, only three have reportedly received an investigation interview request.

 

Deporting these witnesses—especially when none of them have received independent physical or mental health evaluations by medical experts—may amount to a de facto destruction of evidence, as doing so substantially impedes the ability of these women to testify in any potential criminal or civil action. The deportation of potential witnesses interferes with law enforcement’s ability to engage in meaningful review of alleged criminal acts. Because these women have provided or are willing to provide useful assistance in a criminal investigation, they may be eligible for U nonimmigrant status.

 

To remedy this situation, we request that you take the following six measures:

 

  • Immediately stay the removal of all women who have reported or witnessed allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC. Doing so merely complies with existing DHS guidance that a noncitizen participating in an active investigation should not be removed during the pendency of that investigation.[11]
  • Immediately stay the removal of all women who have had any appointments, consultations, or surgeries with Dr. Amin, unless they affirm in writing following consultation with counsel that they decline to participate in the investigation. Notify each of these women in writing by no later than November 20, 2020 that their removal has been stayed because of their potential participation in this investigation.
  • Immediately create a clear and transparent process by which all women detained at ICDC who have reported or witnessed medical abuse at ICDC can identify themselves to federal investigators as witnesses.
  • Publicly commit to interviewing all women who submit medical records and/or testimony that credibly alleges medical abuse.
  • Provide certifications for each woman who has reported allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, has been the victim of qualifying criminal activity, and has been helpful to officials in the investigation of that criminal activity for purposes of a U visa. Those who still remain in the United States should be granted stays of removal, and released from detention pending their application for U nonimmigrant status being received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Those who have been deported should be granted parole into the United States,[12] and likewise be permitted to reopen their removal orders while they pursue U nonimmigrant status.
  • Immediately release every woman who has reported relevant allegations of medical abuse suffered while detained in ICDC, in anticipation of their receipt of U nonimmigrant status.

 



[1] Adolfo Flores, ICE Is Trying to Deport Immigrant Women Who Witnessed Alleged Misconduct by a Gynecologist, Attorneys Say, BuzzFeed News (Nov. 11, 2020), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/ice-deporting-gynecologist-witnesses.

[2] Id.

[3] Michelle Hackman & Alicia A. Caldwell, Pattern of Unnecessary Gynecological Treatments Identified at Georgia ICE Facility, Wall Street Journal (Oct. 27, 2020), https://www.wsj.com/articles/pattern-of-unnecessary-gynecological-treatments-identified-at-georgia-ice-facility-11603803379.

[4] Nomaan Merchant, US Deports Migrant Women Who Alleged Abuse by Georgia Doctor, Associated Press (Nov. 11, 2020), https://apnews.com/article/us-deports-migrant-women-georgia-doctor-b6a5fc1e2d4a822eb3767f9a858ea670.

[5] Adolfo Flores, ICE Is Trying to Deport Immigrant Women Who Witnessed Alleged Misconduct by a Gynecologist, Attorneys Say, BuzzFeed News (Nov. 11, 2020), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/ice-deporting-gynecologist-witnesses.

[6] Id.

[7] Michelle Hackman & Alicia A. Caldwell, Pattern of Unnecessary Gynecological Treatments Identified at Georgia ICE Facility, Wall Street Journal (Oct. 27, 2020), https://www.wsj.com/articles/pattern-of-unnecessary-gynecological-treatments-identified-at-georgia-ice-facility-11603803379.

[8] Nomaan Merchant, US Deports Migrant Women Who Alleged Abuse by Georgia Doctor, Associated Press (Nov. 11, 2020), https://apnews.com/article/us-deports-migrant-women-georgia-doctor-b6a5fc1e2d4a822eb3767f9a858ea670.

[9] John Washington & José Olivares, ICE Medical Misconduct Witness Slated for Deportation Is a U.S. Citizen, Says Lawyer, The Intercept (Nov. 2, 2020), https://theintercept.com/2020/11/02/ice-medical-misconduct-us-citizen-deportation/; Gianna Toboni, Ana Sebescen, & Nicole Bozorgmir, ICE Attempts to Deport Multiple Witnesses in Gynecologic Surgery Scandal, VICE (Nov. 5, 2020), https://www.vice.com/en/article/jgqq7p/ice-attempts-to-deport-multiple-witnesses-in-gynecologic-surgery-scandal.

[10] See supra note 1.

[11] See Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Prosecutorial Discretion: Certain Victims, Witnesses, and Plaintiffs (Jun. 17, 2011), https://www.ice.gov/doclib/foia/prosecutorial-discretion/certain-victims-witnesses-plaintiffs.pdf.

[12] See id. § 1182(d)(5).