AOC demands investigation into ICE whistleblower claims

Henrietta Strickland
September 16, 2020

The complaint says Wooten was demoted after missing work with coronavirus symptoms, which she believes was retaliation for raising questions about addressing COVID-19.

Leading congressional Democrats reacted furiously Tuesday to lightly substantiated claims that immigrants held at a detention center in Georgia are undergoing questionable hysterectomies.

The complaint joined Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigration Support Network in a broader report that outlined their concerns to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

ICE did not comment on the report, but the agency told Law & Crime that it "takes all allegations seriously" and deferred to the Office of Inspector General to investigate.

A gynecologist dubbed "the uterus collector" performed hysterectomies on "everybody he saw" at a Georgia immigrant detention facility, a whistleblower nurse has claimed.

The complaint has been filed with the watchdog that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for ICE.

"We've questioned among ourselves like, 'Goodness, he's taking everybody's stuff out, '" Wooten said.

Wooten told The Intercept that she had repeatedly complained to management before being demoted in July from her full-time position. But after her hysterectomy, an oncologist in Charlotte said she did not have cancer, according to Osorio.

Other allegations include delaying medical care for detained immigrants. "Everybody's uterus can not be that bad", Wooten says. Scott Grubman, a lawyer for Amin, said in a statement that he was confident the doctor would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Amin was the subject of a Justice Department investigation in 2015 for making false claims to Medicaid and Medicare. The Irwin County Detention Center has repeatedly been found to operate in compliance with ICE's performance standards, the agency said. In some cases, there was a language barrier in obtaining consent, too, with nurses at the facility using Google Translate to communicate with immigrant women whose primary language was Spanish. Nurses raised concerns about the doctor, who is unnamed.

Wooten also says that all of these (often presumably unnecessary) surgeries were done by the same doctor. He's even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady [detained immigrant woman].

A woman who answered the phone at Amin's practice hung up the phone when asked for comment.

"Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia", Grubman said.

That's what several legal advocacy groups say after filing a whistleblower complaint on behalf of a nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, alleging an unnecessarily high rate of hysterectomies were being performed on immigrant women there.

But a number of critics spoke out after the allegations were made public, calling for formal investigations of ICDC and ICE, with some remarking it was further evidence that ICE deserved to be abolished.

Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred into the facility and out to other facilities, another violation of CDC guidelines.

"It was like they're experimenting with our bodies", said one detainee interviewed by the Project South organisation, which filed a complaint to the government.

"I don't think this is necessarily a systemic sterilization by ICE I think this is the kind of thing that is allowed to flourish in the course of poor oversight and awful, inhumane conditions of confinement", said Owings.

"Ms Wooten's whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years", Ms Shahshahani added.

Numerous detained women said they did not understand why they were being forced to have the procedure, according to Wooten. No medical staff had been trained on them and she saw the machines used only once.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Nurse Dawn Wooten, who was employed at the ICDC, which is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company.

ICE said on its website that as of September 13, there were 42 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its detainees at Irwin County Detention Center, and 5,772 in all of its facilities, with six overall deaths.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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