ICE Nurse Whistleblower Confirms Detainees’ Allegations of Forced Sterilizations, Ovary Removals, and Hysterectomies on Immigrant Women at ICE Facility
According to several news sources such as CNN.com and BBC.com, an ICE nurse whistleblower has come forward with allegations that confirm what immigration detainees’ have asserted for several years. The ICE nurse’s whistleblower lawsuit alleges that a privately-owned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Georgia performs forced sterilization procedures such as ovary removal, partial hysterectomy, and full hysterectomy on immigrant women. The lawsuit alleges that one doctor at the private Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia has performed an unusually “high rate of hysterectomies and medical neglect at the ICE facility.” The lawsuit states that these complaints have been asserted by numerous female detainees at the ICE facility for several years.
According to the BBC article titled, “ICE whistleblower: Nurse alleges ‘hysterectomies on immigrant women in the US,'” a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a detained female immigrants and the ICE nurse whistleblower. The news reports report that the suit is founded on an INE nurse whistleblower’s admonitions. The ICE nurse whistleblower has been identified as Dawn Wooten. The nurse worked inside the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which is used as a holding center for immigrants who have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In her suit, the nurse stated she was very concerned about the unusually high number of hysterectomy surgical procedures performed on Spanish-speaking females housed at the facility.
The nurse claims that several immigrant women reported that they did not fully understand why they were told they need to have a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removed a portion or all of a woman’s uterus. The lawsuit also asserts that the detention center operated with “jarring medical neglect” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint alleges the neglect included an unwillingness to test detainees for the coronavirus even in cases when a detainee had coronavirus symptoms, gross negligence in infection control standards with respect to using Covid-19 precautions, and the manufacture of detainee medical records. The nurse whistleblower states that she has become a target and was demoted after she made complaints about the center’s conditions and because she stayed home while she was symptomatic.
The lawsuit was filed with the help of several human rights organizations, including the Georgia Detention Watch, Project South, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. The suit was filed on behalf of detained immigrants and the ICE nurse whistleblower.
A spokesperson for ICE stated that the agency is taking the suit’s allegations very seriously, and the agency is “firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody.” The ICE spokesperson also stated that “anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”
The lawsuit quotes the whistleblower and several unidentified detainees. The suit alleges that the facility refused to isolate suspected coronavirus cases amongst the detainees, test symptomatic detainees, and failed to uphold social-distancing practices. In addition to the coronavirus-related issues, the suit also alleges that there was an unusually high rate “at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the ICE Georgia detention center. The whistleblower was quoted as saying, one doctor at the center removed the incorrect ovary from one detainee, and that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy.” The complaint quotes the whistleblower as saying, “We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector.” Another immigrant woman was quoted in the lawsuit as saying, the center was like “an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.” The lawsuit also alleges that medical care was frequently delayed for detained immigrants, and immigrants’ medical request forms were often shredded.
Human rights attorney Azadeh Shahshahani, from Project South, demanded the Department of Human Services (DHS) to begin an immediate investigation into the serious allegations. Attorney Shahshahani said, “For years, advocates in Georgia have raised red flags about the human rights violations occurring inside the Irwin County Detention Center, and Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years.”
In recent years, some states have issued apologies for forced sterilizations. Since then, the awareness about forced sterilization in the US has been growing.
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