Whistleblower Accuses ICE of Medical Neglect, COVID-19 Violations, and Forced Hysterectomies

On September 16th, 2020, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that a whistleblower has come forward with disturbing allegations against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Among other things, the whistleblower—a nurse who worked at an ICE facility in Georgia—accuses the agency of serious medical misconduct, including pushing forced hysterectomies on vulnerable migrant women. Congressional Democrats are calling for an immediate investigation. Below, our Los Angeles immigration attorney provides an overview of what we know about the allegations so far.

Whistleblower Allegations: Human Rights Abuses at Irwin County Detention Center

The whistleblower, a brave woman named Dawn Wooten, worked as a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center. Located in Ocilla, Georgia, it is one of the largest immigration detention facilities in the southeastern part of the United States. Based on her personal accounts and other witness testimony, Ms. Wooten raises a number of serious allegations against the agency, including:

  • Egregious medical neglect and medical negligence;
  • Failure to design and implement proper COVID-19 safety protocols; and
  • Questionable hysterectomies pushed and performed on vulnerable immigrant women.

In the 27-page whistleblower complaint, her legal representatives note the unusually high rate of hysterectomies performed on migrant women at the facility. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. One of the effects is that it is an absolute form of sterilization.

The nurse notes that she talked to several women at the ICE detention facility who did not understand why they had the invasive operation performed on them. The complaint points to a specific doctor employed by the ICE facility who was allegedly especially aggressive in pushing hysterectomies in immigrants.

Congressional Leaders are Demanding a Full Investigation of the Complaint

A group of congressional leaders that includes many of the most prominent Democrats in the country stepped forward to call for an immediate investigation into the whistleblower’s allegations. As Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi explained, if proven true then the allegations amount to a “staggering abuse of human rights.” The allegations harken back to shameful past eras of sterilization and experimentation on vulnerable population groups.

In total, 168 members of congress signed a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting a comprehensive investigation and demanding answers. As the matter is urgent, the letter requests a status update by September 25th. The allegations raised in the whistleblower’s complaint are extremely disturbing. We need a full investigation to determine exactly what happened and why it was allowed to happen. Victims deserve justice and all responsible parties must be held accountable.

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