Congressional representatives from Southern California plan to visit on Saturday an immigration detention facility in Georgia to investigate reports of abuse, including allegations that some detainees were subjected to unwanted hysterectomies.
Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-San Pedro, Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, will join fellow Congressional Hispanic Caucus members and others at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility has been under scrutiny since a nurse who used to work there earlier this month accused a doctor of performing hysterectomies on female detainees without their knowledge.
“At least 17 women held in this privately run ICE detention facility have allegedly been subjected to unnecessary gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies, without an understanding of what was going on and without giving their consent,” Barragán wrote in an email Friday.
“My heart breaks for these women. What allegedly happened to them is wrong. It is a crime,” Barragán said. “They were in the care of the United States government and we failed them.”
The doctor accused, Mahendra Amin, has denied the accusations and ICE officials have denied that widespread hysterectomies were performed at the facility. On Tuesday, Irwin County Hospital officials said that Amin has performed hysterectomies on only two women since 2017.
A review by the Associated Press of medical records for four detainees did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies but “revealed growing allegations that Amin performed surgeries and other procedures on detained immigrants that they never sought or didn’t fully understand.”
Meanwhile, ICE officials said this week that detained women at the facility will no longer be sent to Amin.
The Congressional delegation plans to tour the facility, meet with detainees and speak with ICE officials.
Correa said this is the fourth time in three years that he has visited an ICE facility “to investigate abhorrent allegations of abuse.”
“I am shocked by the claims that women at the Irwin Detention Facility were subjected to medical procedures without their consent or knowledge,” Correa wrote via email Friday. “Forced sterilization is an act of genocide. We must get answers swiftly and ensure everyone involved is held accountable.”
The whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, also reported other medical neglect at the facility, including refusal to test detainees for COVID-19, even after they were exposed to the virus and are symptomatic. In August, ICE officials reported 41 detainees tested positive at the facility but Wooten said there were many more.
In a Sept. 14 complaint, Wooten wrote that the facility has unsafe work practices, unsanitary conditions and doesn’t offer proper medical care or adequate protection against COVID-19. Detained immigrants, for example, are not given protective gear, cannot socially distance and are afraid of dying from the virus, Wooten said in the complaint, which was filed by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, with the Department of Homeland Security and others.
The part of her complaint which got widespread national attention and demands for an investigation from legislators and others revolved around the doctor she referred to as “the uterus collector.”
“He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady [detained immigrant woman]. She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary,” Wooten wrote in the complaint.
Instead, she said, the doctor took out the woman’s right ovary.
Source: Orange County Register