Migrant women react to allegations of unwanted hysterectomies from ICE detention center

U.S. & World

TIJUANA (Border Report) — Women at a migrant shelter in Tijuana expressed outrage and anger when discussing alleged unauthorized hysterectomies performed on women held at a Georgia detention center.

Recently, a nurse who worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Ocilla, Georgia, outlined what she thought was a high number of hysterectomies performed on migrant women.

Her complaint accused one doctor, a gynecologist, of performing the procedure without the women’s consent, or without them fully understanding what the procedure meant. A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove a woman’s uterus. The nurse went as far as to label the doctor a “uterus collector.”

ICE disputed the claims in a statement, saying that since 2018 only two individuals detained at the at the Irwin County Detention Center have had hysterectomies. The nurse’s complaint is under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General.

As for the women at the shelter in Tijuana, they believe it did happen.

“It’s maddening, they don’t have the right to remove a woman’s uterus without consent, it’s subhuman,” said Sandra Flores Meza.

One woman said she now has reservations about trying to get to the United States because of the hysterectomy scandal.

“To risk something like that happening, I would say I wouldn’t go although I do hope to get there some day,” said Teo Siriaco.

Activist Soraya Vazquez called the alleged hysterectomy procedures on migrant women at a Georgia Detention Center a human rights violation and a crime against humanity. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

Migrant activist Soraya Vazquez said the hysterectomies are a symptom of a wider problem.

“These actions demonstrate that immigration policies in the United States are cruel and inhumane. They look to disregard and dehumanize migrants,” she said. “This implies human rights violations for the women, for their reproductive health, their self-esteem and their dignity.”

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee during his confirmation hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 on Captiol Hill in Washington. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)

On Wednesday morning, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs during his confirmation hearing. He was asked to address the hysterectomy allegations.

“Whether it’s the ICE whistleblower complaint or any whistleblower complaint, we take whistleblowers very seriously. They have certain rights and were going to certainly make sure that the investigations by the Officer of Inspector General are played out, and we’ll be fully cooperative with that,” Wold said. “Regarding the ICE whistleblower complaint, it is my understanding that the OIG is starting to … has individuals on the ground in that facility in Georgia. They will be talking to those individuals — today, tomorrow. I look forward to that investigation. Some of what we have seen thus far, some of the most, I would say, dramatic allegations in that complaint regarding certain medical procedures, some of the facts on the ground, some of the facts that we have seen do not back those allegations. But again, I’m going to let the OIG process play out. But if there is a kernel of truth to any of that, you can guarantee that I will hold those accountable and we’ll take very decisive action. But at this point, they are allegations. We need to make sure that we fully investigate them so that all sides have a chance to be heard.”

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