May 20, 2021

Biden Administration to Discontinue Use of Immigration Detention in Irwin County Following Accusations of Abuse, Mistreatment

By Donesha Aldridge | 11Alive | May 20, 2021

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Officials said in a memo they wouldn't "tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”

IRWIN COUNTY, Ga. — The Biden administration is planning to discontinue using an immigration detention center in Irwin County, Georgia following allegations of abuse.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to start making preparations, which includes preserving evidence for ongoing investigations, relocating ICE personnel, and other tasks.

Officials said in a memo they wouldn't "tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”

In addition to the Irwin County Detention Center, Homeland Security also directed ICE to stop using of the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system,” Mayorkas said in a news release. “This marks an important first step to realizing that goal. DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards.

Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.”

The Associated Press reported that the Massachusetts facility has been accused of overcrowding and overall inhumane conditions.

Some detainees at the Georgia facility were allegedly being subjected to medical procedures against their will.

A whistleblower accused ICE officials at the Irwin County Detention Center of performing unnecessary “mass hysterectomies.”

Back in 2020, 11Alive spoke to a woman -- who wanted to remain anonymous -- who was detained at the Irwin County Detention Center for 17 months. She claimed a doctor performed three procedures she didn’t fully understand.

Her records showed that one of them was a laparoscopy, which is a procedure using cameras through the belly button to look at the ovaries and remove any cysts that may be concerning. Her records show she had a cystectomy, or removal of a cyst from one of the ovaries.

However, Dr. Michelle Debbink a board-certified OBGYN from Salt Lake reviewed her medical records and said "The pathology report from that portion of her ovary that was removed suggests that it was a completely normal part of her ovary, a benign part of her ovary called a follicular cyst.”

Debbink said she reviewed four other patient reports, which she said all showed similar findings.

“We wouldn’t recommend removing follicular cysts,” Debbink said at the time. “I think there’s adequate documentation throughout the charts that I have seen that the removal of charts that I have seen that the removal of normal parts of the ovaries is a theme.”

A class action lawsuit against the facility includes sworn testimony from at least 40 women. Many of them said they were deported after sharing their stories.

“The closure of the ICE detention center in Irwin County is an important step toward ending the ICE detention machine,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. "The Irwin County facility was especially problematic due to its remote locations with compromised access to legal counsel and external medical care.”

Official said Mayorkas will continue to review concerns with other federal immigration detention centers and has instructed DHS leadership to provide updates on ICE’s operational needs, the quality of treatment of detainees, and other factors.