FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2020
Ocilla, Georgia — Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán and a delegation led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and House Judiciary Committee investigated Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Irwin County Detention Center, where multiple immigrant women have alleged unnecessary medical procedures, including hysterectomies, were performed without their consent.
“What I saw in there was horrific. Women were crying and asking to be liberated,” Congresswoman Barragán said after leaving the detention center. “What I saw here were human rights abuses. I spoke with several women with bruises and infections. Many were suffering from malnutrition. They said they were called cockroaches and verbally abused by the staff. Some said they received medical procedures that they did not request, did not understand and that nobody explained to them. Others were crying because they were afraid of going to the same doctor that had harmed other detainees.
“One detainee showed me a medical document and said ‘They gave me injections. I don’t know what for and I didn’t authorize it. Read this and tell me.’ The document was for a ‘Depo Provera Injection.’ After receiving the shot, she began bleeding and experienced terrible pain for 42 days. She was sobbing asking for help. She was afraid to see a doctor here.
“We have to end for-profit private contractors running these facilities. There is no oversight and there is no accountability. The more I see, the more I hear, we have to stop using these for-profit private contractors.
“You can’t help but apologize to these women for the way the U.S. government is treating them. Make no mistake: this on the hands of the U.S. government.”
Click here for video of Congresswoman Barragán’s comments after exiting the Irwin County Detention Facility.
Click here for her Twitter feed, which contains sketches and letters from the detainees
La Salle Corrections, the private corporation that runs this facility in Georgia, has already been investigated for COVID outbreaks at its facilities and the lack of care of detainees under its supervision. In July, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to question La Salle and other for-profit private detention contractors about their insufficient responses to the COVID pandemic.
The Congressional Delegation also assessed conditions related to the spread of COVID-19, with more than 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the last several months among detained individuals at the Irwin County Detention Center.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHC have has inspected ICE facilities in Texas and Nevada and raised the alarm about the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities. With the COVID-19 ravaging the county, ICE detention facilities have become hotspots, leaving hundreds of immigrant families and ICE detention officers at higher risks of contracting the coronavirus. The CHC House Judiciary Committee members have also called on ICE to safely and swiftly release those in custody to prevent further contagion and loss of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CHC and House Judiciary Committee will continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19 within ICE installations and to hold government agencies like ICE accountable for any abuses committed against immigrants in their care.
After today’s oversight visit, Congresswoman Barragan made three recommendations:
- First, criminal charges should be filed against the doctor and those who enabled these alleged crimes against the women at the Irwin County Detention Center
- Second, we should end the use of for-profit private contractors to run these ICE detention centers
- Third, we must rethink who is being held in these facilities and if is it necessary to lock them in prison-like conditions
“Someone needs to be held accountable for these horrific acts against extremely vulnerable women who were supposed to be under the care of the United States government. They did not receive care. They were not treated like human beings. We need change so that nothing like this ever happens again,” Congresswoman Barragán said.
Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington.