Georgia’s U.S. senators call for investigation of alleged sexual assault, forced labor at ICE detention center

A detention officer walks through the halls at the Stewart Detention Center. The Detention Center sits in Lumpkin, a rural town about 140 miles southwest of Atlanta and right next to the Georgia-Alabama state line.

Several sexual assault allegations were reported against a male nurse at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Stewart Detention Center in 2021 and 2022. Seventeen allegations of assault were made within the center between May 2021 and 2022, eleven of which were reported against staff. 

The center has a vast history of reports of sexual assault and mistreatment. It is also under investigation for forced labor and cruel retributive punishment for non-compliance.

The women who have come forward with allegations reportedly underwent aggressive interrogation and threats of prolonged sentencing because of their complaints, though the center has denied these claims. The investigation into the nurse’s conduct has been closed, and he remains employed as a medical provider at Stewart as recently as July 2.

Project South, a nonprofit focused on cultivating social movements and combatting human rights violations, has been calling for the closing of detention centers in the state. Meanwhile, Georgia U.S. senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are calling for investigations into the allegations. 

Azadeh N. Shahshahani, human rights lawyer and legal and advocacy director of Project South, says the conditions of the center are a human rights violation.

“We do need additional members of Congress, especially the Georgia congressional congregation, to sign on,” Shahshahani said. “This is about human rights violations. Hopefully, everyone can agree that sexual assault is wrong and needs to stop immediately.”