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E 11-2020        November 2-9th, 2020

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Genocide in ICE Detention

By Zoë Van Tieghem

Women in ICE detention are being forcibly sterilized. This is a form of genocide.

Women imprisoned in these facilities are being told that the only way to get rid of ovarian cysts is to have the entire uterus removed, or worse, told nothing about a procedure at all. They are asked to sign papers written only in English, with no translator provided. It is then stated in their medical paperwork that the victim is fully bi-lingual, despite not speaking a word of English. Many of the women had no idea that the procedure would remove their uterus and render them unable to have children. For most women, a hysterectomy is a last-resort procedure, not a quick fix for a condition that may not exist in the first place.

Dawn Wooten, a whistleblower from Irwin County Detention Center, a private detention facility in Georgia, said in her complaint, “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.”

Irwin County Detention Center is run by LaSalle corrections, a for-profit prison corporation which operates many detention facilities across the south. Immigrant Families Together has spoken with many women in detention, including at Irwin County Detention Center who have had hysterectomies recommended to them. Our organization is also aware that other facilities run by LaSalle have used similar sterilization tactics. Dr. Mahendra Amin, the doctor who has been performing these procedures, has been called the “Uterus Collector.” He is not a board certified Gynecologist.

ICE is a government agency that refuses to spend money on safe drinking water, food or clean undergarments for detainee’s, so the amount of money spent on unnecessary gynecological procedures is extremely suspect. The attention paid to these procedures is in stark contrast to the negligence with which other illnesses or conditions are treated. In many cases, people in ICE detention do not get the life saving treatment they need for things such as gunshot wounds, cancer or COVID-19.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said of a letter demanding an investigation, “There may be at minimum 17 to 18 women who were subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from just this one doctor, often without appropriate consent or knowledge, and with the clear intention of sterilization.”

We are just now scratching the surface of how frequently this practice occurs. These are not isolated incidents.