According to nurse Dawn Wooten, who worked at an immigration detention center in Georgia, there was a lack of medical care and safety precautions that encouraged the spread of COVID-19 among the migrants detained there. Disturbingly, Wooten alleges in a whistleblower complaint that medically questionable hysterectomies were performed repeatedly on immigrant women. Now, a group of Democratic congressional members, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, Joseph Cafarri, for an investigation.

The group of 168 Congress members sent a letter to Cafarri demanding inspection of the facility by September 25. Pelosi compares the allegations to “the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks…the horror of the Tuskegee Syphillis Study…(and) the forced sterilizations of black women,” and that they “are a staggering abuse of human rights.”

The Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, is run by LaSalle Corrections, a private company. The ICDC holds immigrants for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Wooten filed her 27-page complaint with the DHS Inspector General’s office on Monday through several human rights organizations.

“Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years: gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions at Irwin,” stated a representative from Project South, the social justice advocacy group that is protecting Wooten.

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There are many accusations in the complaint, including that there has been no COVID-19 testing, destruction of medical assistance requests submitted by the detained, falsifying medical records and allowing COVID-symptomatic employees to continue to work. Another ICE detention facility, Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana, was reported to have similar unsafe COVID-19 practices.

ICE has denied that “detainees are used for experimental medical procedures” and told reporters  that “anonymous, unproven allegations… should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

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