Last Saturday, a dozen Congress members visited the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia to see for themselves the conditions that immigrant women are subjected to in detention.
The visit followed a whistleblower complaint that described what appears to be a series of forced hysterectomies and irregular procedures, to which the detainees did not give consent.
Representatives Joaquín Castro, Nanette D. Barragán, Adriano Espaillat, Juan Vargas, Jimmy Gomez, Lou Correa, Sylvia García, Raúl Ruíz, Jackson Lee, Hank Johnson, and Pramila Jayapal visited the detention center and reported on social networks about their journey, from the concentrated protests outside the center to the refusal of the agents to let them in with their cell phones.
According to GPB, immigrant women told representatives of the Hispanic Caucus and House Judiciary Committee they were shackled, put in a van, and driven to offsite appointments where they were pressured into surgeries shortly after arriving at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, which is about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.
The detained women told “horror” stories that confirmed the allegations of Dawn Wooten, the nurse who made the situation at the detention center public.
“This is a horror show,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz of California. “It truly is a much, much worse than what I expected.”
The former emergency room doctor said he was particularly appalled by allegations of procedures performed without women’s consent.
“If you take a blade to a woman’s body, you need to have informed consent,” Ruiz said. “Otherwise, it is an assault.”
Rep. Hank Johnson hosted the congressional delegation that is now calling for the closure of the detention center and advocating for alternatives to jailing immigrants in for-profit corrections facilities such as this one, run by LaSalle Corrections, GPB continued.
Poverty and a lack of opportunity in the local, rural community led to the prison’s outsourcing to the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which then leased the building to LaSalle and contracted with Dr. Mahendra Amin, Johnson said.
“They make their living by feasting off of the misery of the inmate detainees,” Johnson said. “And so cost-cutting is the norm here, where you have inmates cooking and cleaning the facility.”
But the center was far from clean, members of Congress said after their tour, describing black mold and unsanitary conditions that would not stop transmission of COVID-19.
Just left the @ICEgov detention center in Irwin County, Georgia — it’s a prison.
We listened to cries for freedom, stories of neglect and retaliation for speaking out.
One women detained described the experience as torture.
More information soon. pic.twitter.com/dLjBNFCBq8
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) September 26, 2020
For Representative Jayapal, there’s a clear pattern in complaints from women detainees that indicate gynecological abuse and non-consensual procedures that match Wooten’s description.
Just left the Irwin County Detention Center. After hearing from women who were sent to the same doctor, it's clear they were having unnecessary medical procedures done to them without their knowledge or consent. This is horrendous.
We're not going to stop investigating this. pic.twitter.com/tjEOVQCxUF
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) September 26, 2020
For her part, Barragán reported seeing a medical document from one of the detainees who claimed to have received injections without knowing what they were for and without giving her consent. The drug in the document was Depro Provera, a well-known brand name for medroxyprogesterone acetate, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, functions as a contraceptive injection that suppresses ovulation.
One detainee showed me a medical document and said they gave me injections. I don’t know what for and I didn’t authorize it. Read this and tell me. The document was for a “Depo Provera Injection”. After receiving it she began bleeding and experienced terrible pain for 42 days.
— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) September 26, 2020
Sylvia Garcia said the stories match, and the members of Congress promise to continue the investigation of what appears to be a continuing human rights violation by ICE and under the consent of the Trump Administration.
ICE Detention Center visit over. Appears stories are true, questions & outrage remain, and investigation will continue. We can’t allow ICE or its contractors to use women in such an inhumane way by forcibly subjecting them to unwanted and unnecessary medical procedures.
— Rep. Sylvia Garcia (@RepSylviaGarcia) September 26, 2020