ACLU Files FOIA Request to Uncover Information About Medical Abuse at Irwin County Detention Facility

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
September 18, 2020 3:30 pm

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a public records request today under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents related to sterilization procedures performed on people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. The filing comes in response to a whistleblower complaint lodged earlier this week, which reported that some women in detention at Irwin County Detention Facility were forced or coerced into receiving hysterectomies and other procedures that can cause sterilization or diminished fertility without proper translation services or consent.

The ACLU also called on its eight million members and followers to ask their congressional representative to close Irwin County Detention Center and defund ICE.

“The reports that came out of Irwin this week were horrific, and they reminded the American people of how broken and cruel our immigrant detention system truly is,” said Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney, ACLU National Prison Project. “For years, we have witnessed the agency abuse our clients, offer negligent or non-existent care, and treat them with a lack of basic respect or dignity. The people in ICE detention have almost no recourse — many are isolated in rural locations, without access to information or people from the outside who can help them. There is no reforming this system. ICE must be defunded, and Irwin County Detention Center must be shut down.”

“The allegations of forced sterilization on women in ICE detention are deeply disturbing, especially gvien our country’s long history of sterilizing Black and Brown people, people with disabilites, and intersex people,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We also know that that our government has denied appropriate reproductive health care to people in immigration custody in other contexts, including denying unaccompanied immigrant minors access to abortion until we sued, and denying access to proper pregnancy-related care and miscarriage care. The government must be held accountable for all of these violations.”

“We commend Project South and the courageous whistleblower for bringing these allegations to light,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Every person is entitled to reproductive justice no matter where they are in the United States.”

The records requested include communications and documents related to the following:

  • Policies, protocols, and guidance regarding gynecological procedures that result in sterilization for people in ICE custody, including but not limited to: hysterectomies (removal of the uterus), salpingectomy (removal of fallopian tube or tubes), oophorectomy (removal of one or both ovaries), and tubal ligation;
  • Policies, protocols, and directives related to translation services for individuals in ICE custody that receive medical care;
  • Policies, protocols, and directives regarding ensuring informed consent prior to all medical care for individuals in ICE custody;
  • Documents and communications — including grievances — related to gynecological procedures that resulted in sterilization of people in ICE custody; or related to lack of informed consent for medical procedures; or related to lack of translation services;
  • Any and all records documenting the total number of times that ICE has paid for gynecological procedures that result in sterilization for people in its custody; and
  • Any records of complaints or grievances against the quality of care provided by the doctor who was identified in the whistleblower complaint as the person who performed the procedures, as well as the amount ICE paid him.

Earlier this year, the ACLU issued its report, “Justice-Free Zones: U.S. Immigration Detention Under the Trump Administration.” The report chronicled the growth of immigrant detention under the Trump administration as well as deteriorating conditions in detention, inabilities to access medical care, and the heightened legal hurdles that prevent people from getting out of detention. It found that 81 percent of all detained people, or 91 percent of people detained in facilities opened under Trump, are held in for-profit providers.

The FOIA request is online, here.

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