Coronavirus, Health

After Visit, Congressional Delegation Calls For Irwin ICE Facility To Be Shut Down

Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail. Wooten says authorities denied COVID-19 tests to immigrants, performed questionable hysterectomies and shredded records in a complaint filed to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail. Wooten says authorities denied COVID-19 tests to immigrants, performed questionable hysterectomies and shredded records in a complaint filed to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Credit Jeff Amy / AP

Former Irwin County Detention Center nurse Dawn Wooten blew the whistle this month when she outlined how immigrant women in ICE custody underwent surgeries, including hysterectomies, that they did not fully consent to or understand.

Based on those allegations, a caravan of congressional representatives, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, went to the Southwest Georgia facility Saturday.

Now, because of what they saw, they’re calling for it to be shut down pending an ongoing investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, adding they heard firsthand accounts from detained women being forced to undergo gynecological procedures with dirty equipment that left them with serious infections.

Just before the visit, Rep. Johnson told WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress that he expected to see evidence of poor conditions. He said he spoke with about 30 detained women who couldn’t produce medical consent forms, and saw what he called filthy conditions in the facility.

The complaint also alleged the Irwin facility was not taking the most basic precautions in protecting employees and detainees from the spread of COVID-19.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that the doctor at the center of the controversy will no longer be seeing patients from the detention center.

The Irwin County Detention Center did not respond to WABE’s requests for comment on the Congressional delegation calling for it being shut down.

Other U.S. Democratic representatives who visited the detention center include Joaquin Castro, Pramila Jayapal, Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia and Nanette D. Barragán.

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