HOUSTON (AP) — The Trump administration is seeking to deport several women who claim they were mistreated by a Georgia gynecologist at an immigration detention center, according to their lawyers.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already deported six former patients who complained about Dr. Mahendra Amin, who was accused of operating on migrant women without their consent or performing procedures that were medically unnecessary and potentially jeopardized their ability to have children. At least seven other people at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, who made allegations against the doctor have received word that they could soon be deported from the country, the lawyers said.
Hours after a detained woman spoke with federal investigators, she said ICE informed her that the hold on her deportation had been lifted and she faced “imminent” deportation.
Another woman was taken to a rural Georgia airport early Monday and asked to sign deportation papers, but was then returned to the facility as her lawyers sued in federal court.
They allege Amin performed surgeries that caused or worsened their pain without explaining to them what he was doing or offering them an alternative. Their stories fit a broader pattern of allegations against Amin by imprisoned women, some of which were revealed in interviews with lawyers and medical records reviewed by The Associated Press.
The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general is also investigating.
Amin's attorney, Scott Grubman, has previously denied that the doctor did anything wrong, calling him a “highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a vulnerable, underserved population in rural Georgia.” Amin stopped seeing women at the Irwin County Detention Center.
Immigration advocates have called on federal investigators to examine not just the doctor but also the detention center and any role ICE played in transferring patients to him.
Although deported people are still able to act as witnesses in a criminal or civil case, many end up in unstable countries or in situations where it becomes difficult to maintain contact with them. The deportations come in the final weeks of President Donald Trump's administration following his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden.
“ICE is destroying the evidence needed for this investigation,” said Elora Mukherjee, a law professor at Columbia University who works with several of the women.
ICE said it had notified the Homeland Security inspector general “of any planned transfers or deportations of Irwin detainees who were former patients of Dr. Amin were,” informed.
“Any suggestion that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by deporting the individuals interviewed is completely false,” the agency said in a statement.
The Justice Department declined to comment. Grubman would not say whether the doctor had spoken to investigators.
Mbeti Ndonga, 37, was brought to Amin last year after seeking treatment for abdominal pain and excessive vaginal bleeding. She said she wanted a new prescription to continue treatment prescribed by a previous doctor. Instead, she said, Amin insisted that she undergo a procedure called dilation and curettage, which involves removing tissue from the uterus to treat excessive bleeding. Her medical records show she also underwent a laparoscopy, which involves making incisions in the abdomen.
“He was persistent and said I needed surgery,” Ndonga told the AP.
When she woke up, she said Amin told her she could never have children. It is unclear whether this is the case. She still suffers from bleeding and pain.
Ndonga has spoken to government investigators twice, most recently on Tuesday. “I told them I was abused, tortured and dehumanized,” she said.
Just hours after her first interview last week, Ndonga and her lawyers said she was told that ICE had lifted its deportation hold and she could be sent to Kenya at any time.
“Mbeti, when answering investigators’ questions, feared that it would make her immigration case worse,” Mukherjee said. “And within hours of the interview, her worst fears came true.”
Another woman was brought to Amin in February after requesting estrogen patches to treat hot flashes following a hysterectomy by another doctor in 2014. She asked to be identified only by her first name, Yanira, because she fears she will be targeted by criminals if she is deported to Mexico.
Yanira said Amin told her he was doing a vaginal ultrasound and she needed a Pap smear, a cancer test in which a doctor takes cells from a woman's cervix.
Both procedures caused her severe pain. After the Pap smear, Yanira said she noticed that the tools Amin used were not lubricated. She had trouble sitting for almost a week.
“We are human beings. We are women. We have feelings,” she said. “Just because we are incarcerated doesn’t mean we should be treated like animals.”
ICE did not respond to questions about the two women, who were brought to the U.S. as young children. Ndonga was previously deported after being arrested for interfering with government property and then detained by ICE after re-entering the country, Mukherjee said.
Criminal records show that Yanira was taken into custody after being arrested for possession of less than a gram of cocaine or methamphetamine. Her lawyers told the government on Thursday that she wanted to speak to investigators about Amin. Early Monday, Yanira said she was driven to the airport to board a deportation flight. But another ICE agent approached her and told her she would not be deported because her lawyers had intervened.
Grubman declined to comment, citing federal data protection law.
The ICE policy directs officials to “exercise all appropriate discretion on a case-by-case basis” regarding the deportation of “victims of crime, witnesses to crime, and persons pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints.”
The agency said this week that it was “accommodating interviews” by state investigators. It added that once a detained migrant has exhausted all legal remedies, “he or she remains subject to a final removal order… and such order must be complied with.”