WASHINGTON, DC – This week, a nurse at an immigrant detention center reported shocking human rights abuses of immigrant women detained at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement:
“The allegations of human rights abuses and medical neglect inflicted on a number of women in federal immigration custody are horrific and must be investigated immediately. Such treatment at the hands of our government would be an atrocious violation of the safety and most fundamental human rights of vulnerable people who come to our shores seeking safety. Immediate investigations to uncover the truth are a moral emergency.
“If the allegations are true, it appears that ICE and/or the private contractors who run the immigrant jail in Irwin County Georgia knowingly subjected incarcerated people to a physician who performed—sometimes forcefully—a disproportionate number of hysterectomies, often on women who were provided no understanding of why these sterilization procedures occurred.
“There is a dark, pervasive pattern in our history of sterilization and other violative medical procedures forced upon women against their will and without informed consent. Historically, this has always disproportionately harmed immigrants, Black women, Latinas, indigenous peoples, and those with less wealth. The allegation that jail officials knew of these actions for years and allowed them to continue are as damning as if those officials or ICE had developed these harmful actions as explicit policy.
“Moreover, this news is a tragic reminder of the inherent dangerousness of incarceration, and the violence within these systems. People who come to the United States legally seeking asylum should be able to be with their families – and not in jail – as they wait for their day in court. Denying their freedom by incarcerating them adds layers of trauma and lethal risk during a deadly pandemic, where overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have turned detention centers into coronavirus hotbeds.
“Our hearts go out to the women harmed and whose basic human rights were denied. We are indebted to Dawn Wooten, the nurse who came forward to make these alleged abuses public, and to the other brave people working to protect these detained women. We are thankful to the, as of now, 173 Members of Congress who have demanded an immediate investigation. We urge all public officials with investigative powers to use them immediately as well.
“We will continue to demand accountability from elected officials for the humane treatment of people seeking asylum, and will reject the premise that combatting this virus requires jailing women and children, and eliminating due process for those seeking asylum. Turning a blind eye to the human consequences of jailing vulnerable men, women, and children puts all of us at risk.”