Standing with immigrant detainees against medical abuse and neglect

We at National Justice for Our Neighbors are both appalled and sickened by the allegations of systematic medical abuse and neglect at the Irwin County Detention Facility in rural Ocilla, Georgia. This facility is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while their daily operations are run by LaSalle Corrections, a private corporation that operates a total of seven immigration detention facilities in four states.

On Sept. 14, 2020, four legal advocacy organizations filed a formal complaint on behalf of several detainees and Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the facility, now turned whistleblower. They allege that a doctor who had contracted privately with Irwin has performed numerous hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures on immigrant patients without their informed consent.

The complaint also cites other instances of medical mistreatment, the revenge taken against detainees brave enough to speak out, and the staff’s incomprehensible refusal to take measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Detainees at the Irwin County Detention Facility plead for their lives in this short cell phone video from April of 2020.

Irwin has long been infamous for unsanitary conditions and indifferent medical care. The onset of the pandemic made everything much, much worse. You may remember this cell phone video posted in April 2020, from a group of desperate female detainees, pleading for their lives.

“Please help us,” begs one woman holding a sign that reads hay personas enfermas/there are sick people here. “Whether they let us out with ankle monitors, or on parole to go to court, whatever it takes, but please, get us out of here.”

The horrifying practices and conditions uncovered at this facility underscore why National Justice for Our Neighbors believes that the detention of immigrants is unjust, inhumane and must end.

Our immigration detention system is not fixable; it is part of a much larger pattern of rampant abuse, jarring medical neglect, and the denial of due process protections. We further believe that the privatization of detention centers dehumanizes immigrants by placing profits over people.

We demand justice and urge you to join us. Here are three ways to lift your voice against these atrocities and to #FreeThemAll:

  1. Please sign and share this #ShutDownIrwin petition widely.
  2. You can also join the Families Belong Together virtual prayer vigils across the country on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.
  3. Church World Service has created an excellent tool to help you contact your U.S. Representative and Senators TODAY and to amplify your message on social media.



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Immigration Issues