Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called for an immediate investigation into allegations detailed in a whistleblower complaint over “jarring medical neglect” at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center.
The complaint issued Monday alleges detained migrants and nurses at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia reported “high rates of hysterectomies done to immigrant women,” according to a copy of the complaint.
“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint — including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women — are a staggering abuse of human rights,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought,” the Speaker added.
Pelosi called for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general to “immediately investigate” the allegations detailed in the complaint. She said Congress and the American public “need to know why and under what conditions so many women, reportedly without their informed consent, were pushed to undergo this extremely invasive and life-altering procedure.”
The whistleblower complaint also alleges the Georgia ICE center refused to test detained migrants who had been exposed to the coronavirus or who were symptomatic for COVID-19.
Pelosi also pushed for answers regarding “ICE’s egregious handling of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Reports such as these point to the urgent need to overhaul our unaccountable detention system and its horrific misuse by the Trump Administration, to ensure that these abuses cannot ever again happen,” she said.
A spokesperson for ICE said in a statement that the agency "does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General."
"ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve," the spokesperson added.
ICE released a statement to outlets Monday evening stating the agency is “firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody.”
“Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees," ICE said in a statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Updated at 2 p.m.
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