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Trump's ICE Forces Hysterectomies on Hispanic Women

Georgia facility has numerous human rights violations on detainees

Brian Young's picture
Sep 15, 2020

Under Trump’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it seems that there are no boundaries to how low they will go. First, it was separating parents and children at the border and now a whistleblower is saying that ICE has been performing an alarmingly high number of hysterectomies on female, Spanish speaking detainees, effectively rendering the women infertile sometimes without their consent.

The whistleblower, nurse Dawn Wooten, works at the Irwin County detention center in Georgia. She has been a nurse for ten years and working at the detention center for the past three years. The center is privately run by LaSalle Corrections, meaning that they have a contract with ICE and the federal government to house immigrant detainees.

In Wooten’s complaint, the nurse alleges that Irwin’s medical staff were performing an alarmingly high rate of hysterectomies, a surgery where part or all of the uterus is removed, on Spanish speaking immigrants. Wooten says many appeared to not understand what the doctors were doing or the long-term consequences that came with the surgery. Wooten said of the doctor, “Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy – just about everybody,” Wooten said. “That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. Everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”

In addition to performing these surgeries, the complaint also alleges numerous health and safety violations. In one case the woman was not properly anesthetized during the procedure and overheard the doctor say they had mistakenly removed the wrong ovary, rendering her unable to have a child. Another thought they were going in to get a cyst drained, but instead received a hysterectomy.

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” one detainee said, according to the complaint.

Conditions within the detention center have also deteriorated since COVID-19 began. The facility refuses to test detained immigrants in a timely manner, concealed the number of positive tests, and refused to isolate sick detainees. “There is no social distancing possible in a detention center,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, a human rights attorney at Project South, who helped file the complaint. “We are calling for people to be freed immediately, and we have been calling for this facility to be shut down for a long time.”

Project South has filed similar complaints against other detention centers as well, including at Stewart detention center in Georgia. Under Trump, the use of private prisons to house detained immigrants has soared. LaSalle currently has 7,000 detainees in their prisons nationwide.  

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