A nurse at a private Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) detention facility alleged that migrants face "medical neglect" and mass hysterectomies, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by multiple legal advocacy groups.
In July, the CEO of LaSalle Corrections, which runs Irwin and 17 other detention centers, claimed in a letter to Congress that no one at any LaSalle facility had "succumbed" to COVID-19, when in reality, as The Intercept writes, "at least two LaSalle guards and one member of medical staff have died of the disease".
Azadeh Shahshahani, a human rights attorney at Project South, told The Guardian that the groups also plan to file the complaints to the United Nations, describing the alleged treatment as "gross human rights violations" for which "the us government should be held accountable". Many of these women who underwent the procedure were reportedly "confused" when asked to explain why they were getting the surgery in the first place.
"Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done", the complaint states. "When she talked to them about the surgery, the women 'reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.' The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were 'trying to tell themselves it's going to be OK'".
"When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp".
Wooten says that numerous nurses tried to communicate with the women by "Googling Spanish" or by asking another detainee to translate, rather than the official language services they're supposed to use.
The whistleblower is Dawn Wooten, who says she was retaliated against for speaking up about the center's mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. In some cases, there was a language barrier in obtaining consent, too, with nurses at the facility using Google Translate to communicate with immigrant women whose primary language was Spanish.
"Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy - just about everybody", Wooten said.
Wooten further alleges in the complaint that ICDC used the same gynecologist from outside the facility on a number of occasions to perform the procedures. She added that this doctor nearly always chose to perform hysterectomies on the patients he saw.
Project South said the complaint alleges "jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Ms Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19". "That's his specialty, he's the uterus collector", Wooten said. "What in the world", Wooten added. 'He's even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady.
According to Wooten, ICDC consistently used a particular gynecologist - outside the facility - who nearly always opted to remove all or part of the uterus of his female detainee patients. She claimed that almost every inmate who saw the doctor received a hysterectomy and claimed the doctor removed the "wrong ovary" on at least one patient. "When the hospital refused to operate on her because her COVID-19 test came back positive for antibodies, she was transferred back to ICDC where the ICDC nurse said that the procedure she was going to have done entailed dilating her vagina and scraping tissue off".
"That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve", the agency said in a statement. "This amoral, cruel and rotten system can not be reformed". "People's lives are at risk in immigration detention, and ICE has continued to prove through its record of medical neglect that no one is safe in its custody".
Jenn M. Jackson, a professor of race, politics and gender at Syracuse University, noted that the forced hysterectomies were a continuation of a disturbing chapter in USA history.
"Forced sterilization is a cruel tool of white supremacy with a long, abominable history in this country", Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) tweeted out. Stamp noted that coercive hysterectomies are performed in prisons throughout the US, and were used to sterilize vast numbers of Puerto Ricans over the course of decades.