By NOMAAN MERCHANT Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government has agreed temporarily not to deport detained immigrant women who have alleged being abused by a rural Georgia gynecologist, according to court papers filed Tuesday.
In a motion that must still be approved by a federal judge, the Justice Department and lawyers for several of the women agreed that immigration authorities would not carry out any deportations until mid-January.
Dozens of women have alleged that they were mistreated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist who was seeing patients from the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is investigating as well. Amin has denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer.
Several women say they have faced retaliation by immigration authorities for coming forward. One woman has said that hours after she spoke to investigators, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified her that it had lifted a hold on her deportation. Another woman was taken to an airport to be placed on a deportation flight before her lawyers could intervene.
The agreement filed in court Tuesday proposes that no deportations would take place until at least mid-January for women who have “substantially similar factual allegations.”
Elora Mukherjee, a Columbia University law professor working with several of the women, said the agreement gives the women “a measure of protection for trying to expose the abuses there.”
“ICE and others at Irwin thought they could silence these women,” she said. “They thought they could act with impunity and nothing would ever happen. But the women have organized and had the audacity to speak out.”
ICE said Tuesday that it “complies with all binding court orders.” The agency has previously denied allegations that it tried to deport women to silence them, saying in a written statement: “Any implication that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting removals of those being interviewed is completely false.”
Scott Grubman, a lawyer for Amin, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
The allegations were originally revealed by a whistleblower complaint. Further investigations have found several examples of Amin performing surgeries on women who later said they didn’t consent to the procedures or didn’t fully understand them.
Grubman has denied any wrongdoing by the doctor and previously described Amin as a “highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.”