I’m sitting here in tears of outrage reading the whistleblower report from an ICE detention facility:
This brave nurse is exposing not just the appalling medical neglect by ICE at this facility, but that an “inordinate amount of hysterectomies are taking place.” In a report by The Intercept, “Another woman said she simply didn’t understand why the doctor was insisting on an operation or even exactly what it would be. She had heard from other women that ‘he just empties you all out.’”
This is human rights abuse and grave reproductive injustice, and it must stop now. The time for half-measures and slow-walking change are over.
*Demand that ICE immediately shut down the Irwin County Detention Center and that Congress hold ICE and CBP accountable for continuing human rights abuses by cutting funding to ICE and CBP in the 2021 budget now. Click here to sign our petition.
The whistleblower – a nurse, Black woman, and mom of five named Dawn Wooten working at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company – said it was “like an experimental concentration camp.” The women who were undergoing the invasive (and often unnecessary) procedure were often not told clearly, in their native language, why the procedure was necessary. One even said she was not properly anesthetized during it.
These abhorrent practices are not without precedent. As the Reproductive Justice organization Black Mamas Matter Alliance points out, “The U.S. has consistently targeted Black, Brown, Indigenous, people of color, immigrant women, and women with disabilities with forced sterilization, birth control, and experimentation as a means of control, domination, and extermination.”
There is a long history in the U.S. of cruelty against those who need our protection the most, and controlling women’s bodies is a recurring systemic tactic of white supremacy. Enslaved African people were sterilized against their will in medical experiments, and hospitals around the country sterilized women of color and poor women well into the 20th century. This includes the forcible sterilizations of Native Women by the U.S. Indian Health Service, Mexican women in Los Angeles in the late 60’s and 70s, and as many as 1 in 3 mothers in Puerto Rico who were sterilized without consent after giving birth in hospitals. Incarcerated and disabled people have also been forcibly sterilized at different points in U.S. history.
Now ICE is continuing this legacy. And this is just the latest in a string of horrifying abuses by ICE. This federal agency, funded by U.S. taxpayers, has established a clear pattern of sexual abuse and medical neglect. This is not an isolated incident but rather one of several stories of abuse coming from within ICE detention centers across the country. These centers have become nothing but a breeding grounds for violence and abuse.
Just last March, Cameroonian women in detention protested severe medical neglect and mistreatment. And over the past few years, a USA Today investigation found “over 400 allegations of sexual assault or abuse. Inadequate medical care. Regular hunger strikes. Frequent use of solitary confinement. More than 800 instances of physical force against detainees. Nearly 20,000 grievances filed by detainees. And at least 29 fatalities, including seven suicides.”
And we all know about the terrible stories of children being kept in cages, torn from their parents in a program – set up by Trump and his cronies as a “deterrent” to stop families escaping terrible violence from coming across the border seeking sanctuary – intended to traumatize families.
*Demand that Irwin Detention Center be shut down and that Congress move to cut funding to ICE and CBP:
The time to hold ICE accountable is now. The Irwin Detention Center must be shut down, and Congress must cut funding to ICE and CPB. We cannot reward continual human rights abuses against Black and Brown communities. We will not stand by as history repeats itself. It is through our collective power that we will be able to hold immigration officials accountable and build a society free of ICE’s cruel practices, where families will no longer be separated and migrants are treated with dignity and respect.