September 16, 2020
Denver, CO – A whistleblower from the Irwin County immigration detention center in Georgia reports a variety of medical abuses perpetrated against immigrant detainees by ICE officials including forced hysterectomies and “jarring medical neglect” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. CIRC condemns these atrocities and calls for justice for detained immigrants, the immediate shutdown of every detention center, and an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“These latest reports of abuse by ICE are absolutely horrific, but unfortunately they are not out of line with ICE’s history. They are part of a long pattern of violations of the basic human rights of immigrants targeted by this agency. Far from making communities safer, it is obvious that ICE has been and continues to be responsible for reprehensible actions perpetrated on behalf of our own government — a body which is supposed to represent all of us,” said Gladis Ibarra, Campaign Manager at CIRC.
This is not the first time that news of abuse has surfaced from the Irwin County Detention Center. In April, detainees at this same facility took great personal risks to smuggle out video footage exposing the squalid conditions within the facility, including ICE officials blatantly ignoring quarantine precautions for COVID-19. Reports have emerged of similar conditions at other ICE facilities across the country, including at the Aurora GEO Detention Center in Colorado. It is no wonder that these facilities have seen widespread coronavirus outbreaks. Nor is it surprising that an agency that arrests parents waiting to pick up their kids at school and puts children in cages would not care about the basic health needs of the people put in their care.
Still, the latest news of hysterectomies forced on women is deeply alarming. The racist history of forced sterilization on black and brown bodies in the United States is long and shameful. Eugenics laws our country passed in the 1900s, featuring the compulsory sterilization of those deemed to be unfit for reproduction, offered a model for Nazi Germany decades later. As recently as the 1970s, a Los Angeles hospital was found to have been manipulating Mexican and Mexican American women during childbirth into consenting to sterilization with the goal of decreasing the Mexican American population. With its latest actions, ICE is perpetuating this deeply troubling pattern in American history.
Dusti Gurule, executive director of CIRC’s member organization COLOR, noted that “The reproductive and bodily autonomy of womxn of color has been a subject of control and attacks for generations. We must eliminate policies that restrict the ability of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color to make our own reproductive decisions and fight for policies that promote bodily autonomy.” COLOR has been instrumental in fighting for justice for women of color in Colorado since its founding two decades ago by a grassroots group of Latinas. CIRC is proud to stand with COLOR in its committed defense of the right to health and bodily autonomy for immigrants and people of color.
These actions cannot be taken as isolated infractions, nor as an out-of-the-blue aberration in ICE’s operations. Our country’s immigration system is structured to funnel vulnerable community members into ICE detention facilities to face neglect, violence, and abuse. This must change now. All detention centers must be shut down, and ICE must be defunded to end the rampant state-sanctioned human rights violations directed against immigrant communities. We will not tolerate one more horrific story. Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that provides a path to citizenship for all, and safety along the way.
We salute the bold action of Dawn Wooten, the Irwin County facility nurse who risked her job to bring this appalling situation to light. We must honor her determination to speak out against the abuse taking place by immediately taking action against these criminally inhumane practices.