Mexico questions the U.S. after ICE allegedly forced migrants to undergo hysterectomies at Georgia detention center

A nurse claimed that staff had performed questionable hysterectomies on migrant women

Mexico questions the U.S. after ICE allegedly forced migrants to undergo hysterectomies at Georgia detention center
Wooten calls a gynecologist who works outside the facility “the uterus collector” - Photo: AFP
English 17/09/2020 15:02 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City AP Actualizada 15:11
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The Mexican government announced it has requested information from the United States about claims that migrants were subjected to hysterectomies at a detention center in Georgia and that a migrant suffered sexual abuse at a facility in Texas.

“A formal request has been made to the appropriate authorities for a report on the supposed negligent actions or rights abuses at immigration detention centers,” Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry said.

The department said consular personnel would try to guarantee migrants’ rights are respected at detention centers. It said it would follow the cases and provide consular assistance to any victims.

On September 14, a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia claimed that staff had performed questionable hysterectomies on migrant women held there. A top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement medical official has “vehemently” disputed the claim.

According to the nurse, the ICE center also refused to test detainees for COVID-19 and shredded medical records.

The complaint filed to the Homeland Security Department’s internal watchdog relies on accounts of Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center until July when she was demoted to work as needed.

Wooten calls a gynecologist who works outside the facility “the uterus collector.”

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said. “He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady.”

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It was unclear to Wooten if women knowingly consented to the operations. Nurses raised concerns about the unnamed doctor.

“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them,” she is quoted saying.

The doctor is not named in the complaint, but lawyers who represent women at the jail said their clients have been taken to a local gynecologist named Dr. Mahendra Amin. Scott Grubman, a lawyer for Amin, said in a statement that he was confident the doctor would be cleared of any wrongdoing. 

ICE said it does not comment on matters before the inspector general but that it takes all allegations seriously.

“That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve,” the agency said in a statement.

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While the 27-page complaint filed by advocacy group Project South quotes unidentified detainees extensively, it also includes detailed comments from Wooten. The complaint says Wooten was demoted after missing work with coronavirus symptoms, which she believes was retaliation for raising questions about addressing COVID-19.

Wooten said the number of detainees infected was much higher than reported because there was no active testing and not all cases were reported, according to the complaint.

Wooten is quoted as saying the sick call nurse sometimes fabricated seeing detainees in person when they hadn’t and that she saw the nurse shred a box of detainee complaints without looking at them. She said nurses ignored detainees reporting COVID-19 symptoms.

If detainees reported a fever, nurses would put them on over-the-counter cold medication for seven days without testing them for COVID-19, she said.

Wooten said the facility declined to use two rapid-testing COVID-19 machines that ICE purchased for USD 14,000 each. No medical staff had been trained on them and she saw the machines used only once.

Democrats react

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the panel is conducting an ongoing investigation about the conditions at ICE contractor facilities “and will be examining these new and incredibly serious allegations.”

Sexual assault at Texas detention center

Also this week, an immigrant woman who has accused guards of sexually assaulting her at a detention center in El Paso, Texas, was deported to Mexico. The woman is from Mexico and has two American-born children.

The woman alleged guards at the El Paso Processing Center forcibly kissed her and targeted her in places where they could not be seen by security cameras. After the Texas Tribune and ProPublica first reported the allegations, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general opened an investigation into her case and allegations from at least two other people.

The woman told the inspector general and the FBI about the blind spots that guards allegedly used. She remained in jail afterward.


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