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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

September 15, 2020
A protestor holding a sign reading ''ICE Detention = COVID19 Death Sentence'' is driven past the Otay Mesa Detention Center, a ICE (Immigrations & Custom Enforcement) federal detention center privately owned and operated by prison contractor CoreCivic, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in San Diego, California, U.S., April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan
A nurse at a Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility is accusing the detention center of allowing mass hysterectomies to be performed on immigrant women detained there, usually without their consent or with very little care.

In a whistleblower complaint sent by Project South to the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Inspector General, nurse Dawn Wooten cited poor treatment of migrants detained at the Irwin County Detention Center, including what she described as limited and negligent medical care, and minimal testing for COVID-19.

"Ms. Wooten's account of the treatment of people in ICE custody is horrifying. People's lives are at risk in immigration detention and ICE has continued to prove through its record of medical neglect that no one is safe in its custody. This harmful agency was shamefully created to target and criminalize immigrants leading to loss of life, abuse, and the separation of hundreds of thousands of families and loved ones. ICE must be abolished," Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, a nonprofit which also helped file the complaint, told Business Insider in a statement.

The facility is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company, Law and Crime reported.

Business Insider could not reach LaSalle Corrections on Monday but the company said in a statement to The Intercept: "LaSalle Corrections is firmly committed to the health and welfare of those in our care. We are deeply committed to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments."

The whistleblower complaint alleges that immigrant women were frequently sent to a gynecologist outside of the detention center who frequently chose to remove all or a portion of the detainees' uteri.

One detained immigrant said she spoke with five women who were at the facility between October and December 2019, all of whom had a hysterectomy done.

Wooten also reported that women who saw this particular gynecologist, who was not named in the report had lost ovaries.

"We've questioned among ourselves like goodness he's taking everybody's stuff out … That's his specialty, he's the uterus collector. I know that's ugly … is he collecting these things or something ... Everybody he sees, he's taking all their uteri out or he's taken their tubes out. What in the world," Wooten said, according to Law and Crime.

She also recounted a story in which the doctor removed the wrong ovary in one young woman who was supposed to have her left ovary removed, allegedly because of a cyst.

"He took out the right one. She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy. She still wanted children—so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can't bear kids … she said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary," Wooten said in the report.

Several individuals and Wooten told Project South that some women did not know that the procedure was being performed on them or were not told what exactly the procedure entailed.

"I've had several inmates tell me that they've been to see the doctor and they've had hysterectomies and they don't know why they went or why they're going," Wooten said.

Another woman who was given the procedure said when she asked why she was having it done, she was given three different answers.

The complaint also alleged limited COVID-19 testing at the facility, which may have put detainees at risk of contracting the virus, a lack of adequate medical care including not giving detainees life-saving medications, and overall neglect of detainees who complain of pain.

ICE did not reply to Business Insider's request for comment at the time of publication.

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