Last Petitioner in Georgia Gynecological Abuse Class Action Secures Release from ICE Custody
For Immediate Release
January 22, 2021
ATLANTA —The final known survivor of alleged gynecological abuse at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) secured her freedom Friday afternoon, January 22, in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the last of dozens of identified survivors of alleged medical abuse and neglect by Dr. Mahendra Amin and his enablers at U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and LaSalle Corrections, a private prison corporation. The final release comes after the filing of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and class action lawsuit against Dr. Amin, ICE, and LaSalle, as well as the then-director of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, and other officials.
The release of the final known survivor follows a large-scale grassroots campaign to support courageous women inside Irwin who organized and spoke out about the abuses there in March 2020, only to be met with brutal retaliation. This victory could not have been possible without around-the-clock organizing and legal support from on-the-ground, abolitionists.
Women who experienced and witnessed the widespread medical abuses at Irwin vowed to continue to support each other and fight for their collective liberation. For years, women supported each other through the medical abuse by cleaning each other’s surgical wounds when Irwin medical staff wouldn’t, providing each other with pain medication when they were bent over in agony, and lending emotional support by making sure that women took occasional walks outside in the sunshine. Though the risk of retaliation was ever-present, they continued working together to collect their stories, document their cases, and submit petitions in order to achieve the mass liberation that was realized today.
Andrea Manrique organized women on the inside to speak out against the Irwin staff failure to protect women from the Coronavirus. Irwin staff failed to provide women with masks and sanitizer, and even housed women infected with COVID-19 with the general population. Manrique mobilized women to post a video about the staff’s neglect on YouTube in April 2020.
The video has over 5,000 views as of this publication. In retaliation against her fearless advocacy, Manrique was physically attacked and severely beaten by Irwin guards. She suffers pain from that attack to this day. She was released on November 10, 2020. She shared: “No alcanzan a imaginar la felicidad que tengo al saber que las personas que amo con el alma están siendo liberadas, mujeres que con lágrimas dibujadas en nuestros rostros sentimos un dolor que solo la libertad y el amor podrán sanar. No descansaremos hasta que todos sean liberados y el ICDC y todos los centros de detención sean cerrados. Tengo la mirada al frente y segura, porque se que se hará justicia y de la mano divina vienen tiempos hermosos para nosotros Los Guerreros de La Luz.”
Translation: “It’s unimaginable, the happiness I have, knowing that the people I love with my soul are being liberated, women who with tears drawn on our faces feel a pain that only freedom and love can heal. We will not rest until everyone is released and Irwin County Detention Center and all detention centers are closed. I look forward and am sure that justice will be done and beautiful times will come from the divine hand for us The Warriors of the Light.”
Lourdes, who was released from Irwin on January 21, 2021 is another survivor of medical abuse by Dr. Amin. She bravely shared her testimony with federal lawmakers during their Congressional visit to Irwin in October 2020, despite the constant threats of brutal retaliation from Irwin guards: “La palabra gracias es muy pequeña para mi Dios y para todas las personas que han luchado para que sea liberada. Mi mensaje para mi gente emigrante es que somos luchadoras/es y yo me considero una mujer fuerte y luchadora.”
Translation: “The words ‘thank you’ are far too small for my God and for all the people who have fought for me to be released. My message to my immigrant people is that we are fighters and I consider myself a strong woman and a fighter.”
While all petitioners have been released and are now able to be with their families — some after years of being apart — the fight is not over. Many of these women have been released pending execution of their final removal orders, leaving them in the precarious position of facing deportations that would tear them away from their loved ones once more.
As we celebrate the freedom of these women today, we also remember all of those survivors who have been deported, those survivors who have not yet been identified, and all those who remain caged inside Irwin and all ICE prisons.
We will continue to fight for their right to return and reunite with their families, and we continue to call on Congress, the Biden-Harris administration, and the judiciary to hold accountable those responsible for the untold suffering at Irwin as we move toward justice. We continue to demand the immediate depopulation and abolition of all human cages.
We also remember that the horrific events that took place, and continue to take place, inside Irwin are not isolated incidents. Instead, they are just one example of the unrelenting abuses faced by people held in immigration detention centers across this nation.
We thank all the organizations, organizers, lawyers, law students, lawmakers, medical and mental health professionals, coalition members, and advocates who continue to push for justice and liberation and who stand in solidarity with these women and many others as they struggle to heal.
Organizations and firms representing the women detained at Irwin include:
- National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG)
- Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School
- Dreyer Sterling LLC
- Community Health Law Partnership Clinic and First Amendment Clinic, University of Georgia School of Law
- Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School
- Immigrant Rights Clinic, Texas A&M School of Law
- Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program, Boston University School of Law
- Project South
- Innovation Law Lab
Other supporting organizations include the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Georgia Detention Watch, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, which along with Project South filed the September 14, 2020 whistleblower complaint shining a light on abuses at Irwin; as well as the Immigration Law Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.