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DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility

DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility
© Greg Nash

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has opened an investigation into allegations of forced hysterectomies at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia. 

DHS confirmed the probe in a statement to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The department’s decision followed pressure from Democratic lawmakers for an investigation after a whistleblower complaint filed by a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center earlier this week detailed “jarring medical neglect” at the facility. 

Nurse Dawn Wooten’s complaint alleges migrants and nurses at the detention center reported “high rates of hysterectomies done to immigrant women,” and claims that the ICE center refused to test detained immigrants who had been exposed to the coronavirus or who were symptomatic for COVID-19. 

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Poll shows Biden leading Trump, tight House race in key Nebraska district MORE (D-Wash,) Judy ChuJudy May ChuDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Lawmakers of color blast Trump administration for reportedly instructing agencies to end anti-bias training MORE (D-Calif.) and Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenWhy prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) led 173 members of Congress in a letter calling on DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to open an immediate investigation into the allegations. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee MORE (D-N.J.) also sent a letter to the DHS Office of Inspector General requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations, and a number of other congressional Democrats pushed for an investigation. 

The whistleblower complaint also raised issues of “proper informed consent” regarding hysterectomies done to immigrant women. 

Spokespeople for DHS and the DHS inspector general were not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Hill about the investigation. 

ICE told the Journal that its data showed that only two immigrants at the center in Georgia had been referred for hysterectomies since 2018. 

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“The accusations will be fully investigated by an independent office, however, ICE vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures,” Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said in a statement to the newspaper. 

Georgia’s two GOP senators said they look forward to seeing the inspector general’s report. 

A spokeswoman for Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerRepublicans scramble to shore up support in Ga. as Democrats gain Democrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing MORE told The Hill that the senator “trusts the IG will conduct a thorough investigation of the facts to get to the bottom of this.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. David Perdue told the Journal “these claims are extremely disturbing,” adding that “they are currently being investigated by the Inspector General and the Senator awaits that process to officially play out.”