U.S. immigration officials said on Tuesday that a federal watchdog would investigate complaints made by a whistleblower nurse at a migrant detention center in Georgia, who claimed that detainees had suffered improperly hysterectomies and others. gynecological procedures.
The allegations were made by Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), in a complaint filed with the Watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Homeland Security, Monday by advocacy groups Project South and the Government Accountability Project.
The Reuters news agency interviewed Wooten but could not independently confirm the claims of inappropriate hysterectomies or surgery to remove the uterus.
The allegations sparked an uproar among Democratic lawmakers in the United States, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Leader of the United States Senate Chuck Schumer.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has denied the allegations. Dr Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said in a statement that since 2018, only two people from the Irwin center in Georgia have been referred for hysterectomies based on recommendations from specialists who “have been reviewed. by the clinical authority of the establishment and approved “.
LaSalle Corrections, the private contractor who manages the facility, said in a statement that it “strongly refutes these allegations and any implications of misconduct” at the Irwin center.
Yesterday I was briefed by lawyers representing women who have been subjected to forced and invasive procedures by a gynecologist linked to a private for-profit detention center in GA. It has become clear that the initial reports are likely part of some horrific behavior.
Rep Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) September 16, 2020
Democratic lawmaker Pramila Jayapal said she had spoken to three lawyers representing women at the detention center, and that there may be at least 17 detained migrants subject to unwanted procedures.
Controversy is the latest issue in the administration of US President Donald Trump’s handling of migration, which critics have called “racist.”
Trump, a candidate for re-election on November 3, led his 2016 presidential campaign to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and called Mexicans “drug traffickers,” “criminals” and “rapists. »By announcing his campaign.
Trump also pledged to ban immigration and asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries, which led to his controversial “Muslim ban.”
Wooten told Reuters on Monday that women who complained of heavy periods or requested birth control would be referred to outside gynecologists and sometimes receive hysterectomies, but many did not fully understand the prescribed medical procedures.
“A lot of them said they didn’t understand what was being done to them. No one explained to them,” she said.
Lawyers representing detainees at Irwin told Reuters that several women had complained about gynecological treatment by a provider outside the facility.
Asylum seeker and former immigrant detainee Mateo Lemus Campos attends protest against conditions at Adelanto Immigration Detention Center outside ICE headquarters in Los Angeles, California [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]
Sarah Owings, a Georgia-based immigration lawyer, told Reuters that she and other lawyers were collecting information about hysterectomies performed on detainees and had called lawyers to review their cases. She had no evidence to suggest these surgeries were widespread, she said.
“I think there is a situation where health care is not up to par in these places and there is absolutely room for a lack of oversight,” she said.
Elizabeth Matherne, another immigration lawyer in Georgia, recalled complaining to detention center officials about the treatment her clients said she received from an outside gynecologist.
ICE said in its statement: “A medical procedure such as a hysterectomy would never be performed against the will of an inmate.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies
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