09.18.20

Leahy Co-Leads Letter Pressing DHS Inspector General For Swift Investigation Into Alleged Forced Hysterectomies

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Sept. 18, 2020) – On Friday, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), joined by 37 senators, called on the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to expeditiously investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies at an ICE facility and conduct a nationwide review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities.

Senator Leahy said:  “Forced sterilization procedures are abhorrent human rights violations and have been an instrument of genocides around the world.  We must never tolerate such practices here in the United States – especially not at the hands of those acting on behalf of our own government.  These allegations must swiftly be investigated, and any individuals found responsible for these human rights violations must be held accountable.”

The senators wrote:  “Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy. To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.”

In addition to Senators Leahy, Feinstein, Murray, Casey and Booker, the letter was signed by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

A link the letter can be found here. Full text of the letter follows:

 

September 18, 2020

 

Hon. Joseph V. Cuffari

Inspector General

Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane SW

Washington, DC 20528-0305

 

Dear Mr. Cuffari:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General should expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation into a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies and other egregious abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.  LaSalle Corrections operates that facility for the federal government, including for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The alleged abuses detailed in the complaint and in related reports must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated to protect the rights and safety of women and patients in our nation’s care. 

The whistleblower expressed alarm about the “rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the facility.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that between October and December 2019 at least five women detained at the ICDC received hysterectomies.  When asked about the procedures, however, the women “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” The complaint also describes how a gynecologist once removed the wrong ovary on a young woman, causing her “to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” leaving her unable to bear children.

Another detained woman who received a hysterectomy recounted that medical personnel “did not properly explain to her what procedure she was going to have done.”  Although she asked for more information about why she was receiving a hysterectomy, she was “given three different responses by three different individuals.”  When the woman told a nurse that the procedure “isn’t for me,” the nurse “responded by getting angry and agitated.” 

Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy.  To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other ICE facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies. 

In addition to thoroughly investigating the recent alleged abuses at the ICDC, we urge you to immediately conduct a national review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities to ensure that the human rights of women in federal immigration custody are assured. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss compliance with this request, please contact Kara Lynum with Senator Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee staff at (202) 224-7703, Rajiv Venkataramanan with Senator Leahy’s Judiciary Committee staff at (202) 224-3466, Danny Smith with Senator Booker’s Judiciary Committee staff at (202) 224-7842, Jaron Goddard with Senator Murray’s office at (202) 224-6935, or Julia Sferlazzo with Senator Casey’s office at (202) 224-4195.

Sincerely,

#####