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House Speaker Calls for Immediate Investigation Into Whistleblower Complaint of ‘Staggering Abuse of Human Rights’ at ICE Detention Center

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and 173 House Democrats have called for an immediate investigation into the “staggering abuse of human rights” outlined in a shocking new whistleblower complaint that alleges that an ICE detention facility has been performing hysterectomies on immigrant women against their wills and ignoring safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

According to the complaint filed by a nurse named Dawn Wooten, who was employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia and was filed with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, the trauma inflicted upon immigrants and their families goes far beyond ripping them apart, locking them up, and subjecting them to living in filth, often without adequate access to bathrooms or food:

This complaint and Ms.Wooten’s accompanying Declaration (which is incorporated by reference) document recent accounts of jarring medical neglect at ICDC including refusal to test detained immigrants for COVID-19 who have been exposed to the virus and are symptomatic, shredding of medical requests submitted by detained immigrants, and fabricating medical records. In addition, this complaint raises red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women under ICE custody at ICDC. This complaint also documents hazardous and reckless actions taken by ICDC management such as allowing employees to work while they are symptomatic awaiting COVID-19 test results and hiding information from employees and detained immigrants about who has tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, this complaint documents ICDC’s disregard for public health guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by maintaining unsanitary conditions and continuously allowing transfers of detained immigrants, even those who have tested positive for COVID-19, and punishing immigrants with solitary confinement when they speak out against these injustices.

Pelosi said in a statement on Tuesday that “if true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights.”

The complaint describes a “profoundly disturbing situation” that “recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought,” the Speaker said.

Pelosi said that an investigation into why immigrant women were sterilized without their consent must take place”

The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.  Congress and the American people need to know why and under what conditions so many women, reportedly without their informed consent, were pushed to undergo this extremely invasive and life-altering procedure.

Reports of widespread disregard for the dangers of COVID-19, which have been championed, repeated, and lied about by President Donald Trump since the start of the pandemic, also deserve intense scrutiny:

It is also essential that we get answers regarding ICE’s egregious handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in light of reports of their refusal to test detainees including those who are symptomatic, the destruction of medical requests submitted by immigrants and the fabrication of medical records.

Pelosi said that she places the blame on Trump Administration itself, whose inhumane immigration policies have led to egregious “abuses” of human rights:

Reports such as these point to the urgent need to overhaul our unaccountable detention system and its horrific misuse by the Trump Administration, to ensure that these abuses cannot ever again happen.

Trump’s racist stances on immigration were the original tenents of his candidacy for the presidency. He launched his White House bid by characterizing Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” that were bringing “drugs and crime” across the border.

Thus, the policies Trump has crafted since taking office – family separation and mass deportations among them – have resulted in thousands of immigrants, most of whom came from Central and South America and were seeking political asylum, being herded into detention centers across the United States and left to suffer in what a 2019 report in The Atlantic described as “cruelly austere conditions.”

Poor treatment of persons of color and prisoners in the US is, of course, nothing new.

The whistleblower complaint revealed the extent to which the abhorrent treatment of human being has expanded under Trump’s authority, which has offically met at least three of the criteria laid out in the United Nation’s definition of genocide, if not all of them:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

Killing members of the group;

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

You can read the disturbing complaint in full below:



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