ICE tried to deport survivor of unwanted hysterectomy using expired, potentially illegal travel documents
ICE attempted to deport one of the women who had her fallopian tubes removed against her consent using expired, potentially illegal documents from an honorary consul who has issued a false travel document for ICE in the past, her mother said.
Pauline Binam, a 30-year-old Cameroonian-American woman who has been held in ICE detention for three years, was taken from Montgomery Processing Center in Corden, Texas to Chicago to be deported to Cameroon on Wednesday. After being shown an expired, illegitimate travel document, she protested by sitting down in Chicago O’Hare airport departure hall and refusing to board the Ethiopian Airlines flight, her mother, Jeannette Binam said, and her deportation was halted.
In August 2019, while in ICE detention at Irwin County Correctional Center in Ocilla, Georgia, Dr. Mahendra Amin removed one of Binam’s fallopian tubes without her consent, her mother and her lawyer, Vân Hunyh, said.
The document in question was a “laissez-passer,” or temporary one-way passport issued by Charles Greene III, an Methodist minister in Houston, who is listed as “Pending Honorary Consul of Cameroon” on the Texas secretary of state’s website. Although he obtained the post in 1986, reportedly due to his ties with Shell oil company, Greene is not listed as a consul on the Embassy of Cameroon’s website. The Embassy and the number listed for Charles Greene did not answer calls when contacted for comment.
Greene issued the 60-day laissez-passer in February, shortly after ICE transferred Binam from the facility in Georgia to one in Texas, and it expired in April. Greene did not interview Binam, part of the standard procedures for issuing a laissez-passer, and used a picture taken from Pauline’s Facebook page, her mother said. Pauline’s mother and Sylvie Bello, CEO of the Cameroon American Council, said they suspect ICE transferred Pauline from Georgia to Texas to facilitate the procurement of travel documents in order to deport her quickly.
Greene’s authority to issue any type of travel document has been questioned in court. In 2013, upon ICE’s request, Charles Greene issued a Cameroonian laissez-passer to a man from Ivory Coast. District Judge Yvette Kane wrote in her ruling that “The Court believes that the evidence presented by Defendant raises serious questions as to the validity of the travel document such that this Court is unable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the travel document is valid.” ICE nonetheless deported the man to Cameroon.
Cameroonian travel documents, like those from other countries, are supposed to be issued from the embassy in Washington, D.C., but Greene issued at least 14 such laissez-passers for ICE from 2010 to 2014.
While in detention in Georgia in August 2019, Binam initially sought medical care for irregular spotting during her menstrual cycle. ICE officials took her off the facility, which is run by the for-profit LaSalle Corrections, to see Dr. Mahendra Amin at Crisp Regional Hospital in Cordele, Georgia. Binam thought she was going to have a dilation and curettage procedure, and woke up from anesthesia with one of her fallopian tubes removed, her mother and lawyer said.
In a psychiatric assessment commissioned by LaSalle Corrections five days after the procedure, Dr. David J. Faulk wrote that Binam “is ‘bothered’ by the fact that she went into surgery expecting a D&C and ended up having a salpingectomy.” A “D&C,” or dilation and curettage, is a procedure that removes abnormal tissues from the cervix, while a salpingectomy is the surgical removal of a fallopian tube.
“She was told was that they were going to go into her uterus and scrape out the parts that were clogged,” Hunyh, a lawyer at the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights said. “She didn’t sign any consent document for the surgery,” her mother said. “There was definitely no consent given by her to undergo this procedure,” said Hunyh, who added that she was not aware of Binam signing any consent form for the procedure. ICE did not reply for comment.
In a September 14 complaint to immigration detention officials, advocacy group Project South detailed how Dr. Amin performed multiple hysterectomies against the will of detained immigrant women. Whistleblower nurse Dawn Wooten, who works at Irwin County Detention Center, told MSNBC on Tuesday that Dr. Amin “collected uteruses” from the multiple woman he operated on.
Jeannette Binam said her daughter had been tested three times in one week for Covid-19 in an attempt to clear her for deportation as the news about mass hysterectomies was breaking. “He tried to force things to deport her quickly, but he was shamed yesterday. Shame on him,” she said.
Binam has not had a menstrual cycle since her procedure, but has not been able to seek medical help after her immigration appeal was denied and she was transferred to a detention center in Texas. “Because she was transferred out of Texas she actually hasn't been able to get another gynecological checkup to figure out what sort of impact on that surgery had on her body,” Hunyh said.
According to whistleblower Dawn Wooten, Mahendra Amin had done similar procedures on many immigrant women. “I had several detained women who came to me on numerous occasions and would say to me, Ms. Wooten, I had a hysterectomy, why? I had no answers as to why they had those procedures,” Dawn Wooten told MSNBC.
Binam, a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, was two years old when she came to the U.S., and has been in immigration detention for three years. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in a press release on Tuesday that she called “for an immediate and full Congressional investigation to get to the bottom of this situation. That requires that Pauline and other women immediately receive a stay of their deportations so that they can participate in this investigation.”
Biman’s lawyer and a handful of activists are now fighting her deportation case again. If it is carried out, she will be separated from her 12-year old daughter, who has been living with her sister since she was detained.
ICE detained Binam, a domestic violence survivor who had worked as a tutor for students in Charlotte, in 2017.
In Binam’s birth country Cameroon, a civil war between an Anglophone insurgency and repressive Francophone government has caused more than 700,000 to flee their homes.
Binam’s mother said she will continue fighting for justice for her daughter, and that she was relieved when she was taken off the flight to Cameroon. “I prayed day and night, I told God to give her a miracle. I said she can even be in the airplane, and the airplane will not take off, and it happened just like that. God answered our prayers.”