Originally Published in The Washington Post
Teo Armus - December 22, 2020
The 160-page filing also alleges those women and others held at the facility were placed in solitary confinement, experienced physical assault and were deported — or nearly deported — for speaking up about Amin, including in an ongoing federal investigation. According to the document, one unnamed woman has said she complained to staff at Irwin about him as early as 2018.
Amin has “flatly” denied allegations against him, his lawyer, Scott R. Grubman, said in a statement to The Washington Post last month, adding, “Dr. Amin has always treated his patients, including those who were in ICE custody, with the utmost care and respect.”
Neither Grubman nor LaSalle Corrections, the for-profit company that operates the Irwin facility, immediately responded to a request for comment early Tuesday. Several employees for the company or ICE, as well as Amin, are named as respondents in the complaint.
ICE declined to comment to The Post on Wednesday due to pending litigation as well as the ongoing federal probe. In previous statements, the agency has denied allegations of retaliation.
“Any implication that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting removals of those being interviewed is completely false,” ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said last month.
Lawyers and advocates said Monday’s filing underscores the growing number of women coming forward with allegations against Amin. Of those included in the filing, some are still detained at the Irwin facility, some have been released in the United States, and others have been deported to Nigeria, Canada and Mexico, among other countries.
Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director at Project South, one of several groups working on the case, said in an interview with The Post that the testimonies point to an institutional pattern of neglect.
“ICE knew about medical abuse and did not do anything,” she said. “In the context of them now trying to retaliate against people that are speaking up and trying to erase the evidence, it’s really quite egregious.”
The filing charges that one detainee, identified as “Jane Doe #35,” repeatedly brought up concerns about Amin to the warden at Irwin and an ICE official in the latter half of 2018, but was taken to see him for treatment anyway.
Irwin became the subject of national attention in September, after a whistleblower report by a nurse at the facility, Dawn Wooten, alleged that a doctor — later identified as Amin — was subjecting immigrant detainees to unwanted hysterectomies.
Her claims about widespread unwanted sterilizations quickly came under scrutiny. The hospital where Amin practiced said just two women in ICE custody had been referred for hysterectomies.
Yet the allegations against Amin nonetheless generated significant attention from lawmakers, news organizations and human-rights groups.
In October, an independent team of medical experts, including nine board-certified obstetricians, reviewed more than 3,200 pages of medical records from 19 women at Irwin who alleged mistreatment. They found what they considered to be a troubling pattern of inadequate care that included incorrect diagnoses and a failure to secure informed consent for surgery and other procedures.
After a group of federal agencies launched an investigation into the matter, lawsuits were filed last month seeking to stop the deportation of four potential witnesses, all of whom said they were nearly removed from the United States. The Trump administration agreed to pause the deportations of those women and those with similar allegations, although last week it asked the court to back out of the agreement.
One former Irwin detainee, Jaromy Floriano Navarro, who was deported to Mexico the day after Wooten’s report came out, said she hopes President-elect Joe Biden and his administration will do more to fight the alleged abuse she and other women say they have suffered.
“The takeaway I want is justice,” she said in an interview with The Post. “For them to bring us back — those of us who were deported for speaking up — and for this to never happen again, in any immigration facility.”
Having lived in the United States for the past two decades, she added, “I’m an American, and my government treated me like I’m not from the United States.”
Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.