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Immigrant Women File Class Action Against Irwin County Detention Center

— December 24, 2020

Many of the women’s claims relate to Dr. Mahendra Amin, who allegedly performed unauthorized hysterectomies on detained migrants.

Several dozen immigrant women who were held in a Georgia detention center have filed a class action against an Irwin County jail and its operators, claiming they were subject to nonconsensual and often unnecessary medical procedures while kept behind bars.

According to NBC News, about 40 women have so far filed sworn testimony in the case. Their attorneys say the breadth of experiences and reports “[reveals] a relentless pattern of unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures, including unwanted gynecological surgeries and other non-consensual medical interventions.”

As LegalReader reported earlier this year, many of the women claim to have been victimized by Dr. Mahendra Amin, who practices out of Ocilla, Georgia, and was contracted by the Irwin County Detention Center.

Both ICE and LaSalle Corrections, the private contractor tasked with maintain order at Irwin, are named as defendants in the suit.

Since September, numerous women have alleged that Dr. Amin performed unauthorized—and often unnecessary—hysterectomies on them.

In many cases, Amin purportedly performed hysterectomies—a surgical procedure in which part or all of a woman’s uterus is removed—on Spanish-speaking women, many of whom appeared not to understand either the implications of such procedures or why they had received them in the first place.

Doctor performing surgery; image by Jafar Ahmed, via
Doctor performing surgery; image by Jafar Ahmed, via

One woman, named by The Associated Press as Cardentey Fernandez, 39, had repeatedly claimed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials of ovarian cysts. Fernandez was scheduled to undergo treatment—but was never told exactly what Dr. Amin did to her. While her medical records indicate she was due to be treated for cysts, they run blank as soon as she was passed over to Amin.

Other women say they were pressured into removing vital reproductive organs or appendages, even when such removals were not medically necessary. In some cases, Amin may have made unilateral decisions to perform hysterectomies without giving his patients the opportunity to offer or refuse consent.

The class action further claims that many of the inmates who did speak out against Dr. Amin—whether they criticized him or attempted to report him for wrongdoing—faced retaliation. Irwin County Detention Center staff reportedly placed whistleblowers in solitary confinement; in some cases, they have may physically abused detainees, threatened them with deportation, or even facilitated deportation.

The 160-page lawsuit demands “an immediate end to retaliation against women for speaking out, compensation for the harms they have suffered, and writs from the court requiring ICE to make the women available to fully participate in this lawsuit, or alternatively, to release the women from the detention center.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for Project South and co-counsel on the suit, suggested that the detention center should be immediately shuttered.

“We are seeking an immediate end to the egregious retaliation against the women who spoke out against the abuse, release of the women who have suffered medical abuse, and compensation for the harms that survivors suffered,” Shahshahani said in a statement. “It is high time for this facility rife with human rights violations to be shut down and for ICE and LaSalle to be held accountable.”

“The main demand,” Shahshahani added, “has always been to shut this place down. Human rights violations have been occurring at Irwin for a number of years and so there’s no reason this facility should still be operating.”


A Georgia ICE detention center is no longer sending detained women to a doctor who some said didn’t fully explain their procedures to them

Migrant women file class-action lawsuit for alleged medical abuse at ICE detention center

More Than 40 Women File Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Medical Misconduct by ICE Doctor at Georgia Detention Center

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