[Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by JACL Executive Director David Inoue and Public Affairs VP Sarah Baker]
Last week, Dawn Wooten, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia came forward with whistleblower allegations of mass involuntary hysterectomies and gross medical neglect towards women incarcerated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint, filed by Government Accountability Project and Project South, details the denial and delay of care for immigrants before and during the coronavirus pandemic as well as a lack of safety measures for immigrants and staff. These allegations, if true, represent a new depth of depravity for this administration and the inhumane cruelty being inflicted upon immigrants.
Unfortunately, forced hysterectomies have been used as part of Eugenic and genocidal policies dating back over a century. During the Eugenics Movement that began in the 1890s, thousands of Black, Native, and Latina women were sterilized, particularly those who were poor, immigrants, or disabled. Many of these early policies influenced the Nazi party in their law-making and eventually in their genocide of Jews, Sinti, Roma, and other communities during the Holocaust. These policies are the last anyone might have expected to be repeated within our country.
The blatant disregard ICE has shown for the well being of migrant men and women in detention has remained constant. The lack of proper oversight has fostered a culture of abuse that seems to have culminated in the most reprehensible behavior imaginable. ICE has become a rogue agency embodying the worst devaluation of human life, whether it is the continued imprisonment of infants and children or the newly revealed acts of violence against women.