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Forced Sterilization in ICE: Whistleblower Reveals Potential Human Rights Violation

In recent years, conflict at the Southern border and the topic of immigration has been highly contested in American politics. The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have in the past been accused of mistreatment of detainees, a movement that has gained much traction among activists. This past month, a nurse who worked at an ICE detention center in Georgia released a statement that if proven true, would fundamentally change the perception of detention centers across the country.

Dawn Wooten, the nurse known for the allegations, was approached by multiple detained women who expressed that they underwent a hysterectomy. After further inquiry, Wooten was unable to find a specific health reason as to why so many female detainees were made subject to said treatment. The main physician in question is Dr. Mahendra Amin, who worked at the ICE detention center in Georgia that Wooten was employed at.

The forced sterilization of immigrant women and the systematic targeting of a particular group would constitute genocide under the International Criminal Court’s definition. It would also be considered a form of torture by the United Nations.

This situation should not be taken lightly, as the United States has a history of forced sterilization that dates back more than a century. In 1907, Indiana passed the very first eugenics sterilization law with 31 states who followed, which resulted in the sterilization of over 60,000 individuals who were deemed unfit for reproduction through involuntary, compulsory, and forced means. Most laws of this nature were repealed by the 1970s, but the dark history that it highlights is not long forgotten.

Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation. As it stands, Dawn Wooten’s statements are simply allegations, but if proven true, would mark a repetition of America’s dark past.

Wooten also expressed in her complaint against the agency that the facility failed to protect staff and detainees against coronavirus. She claims that the detention center in Georgia had not followed CDC protocol and alleges that the facility refused to test detainees, even those who exhibited symptoms. In her complaint she also expressed the claim that medical professionals had shredded records, guards and staff were forced to work while waiting test results, and that there was retaliation against staff or detainees who attempted to report complaints.

As it stands, without a proper investigation, Wooten’s claim is just an allegation. However, with the severity of her claims, it is clear that an inquiry is needed to decide if those at question should be held accountable.

If following an investigation these claims appear to be true, it is further proof of the oppression and mistreatment that immigrants and detainees- specifically BIPOC women- face in this country. Moving forward, the American population must pressure the federal government to properly execute a fair and legitimate inquiry into Wooten’s claims. This is not simply an issue of immigration, but of human rights, as it marks medical abuse against vulnerable women held in containment by ICE.

Sheila Martinez is a Cuban-American immigrant currently residing in Miami and attending Florida International University. She is studying International Relations and Political Science with a concentration in human rights and political transitions and is uniquely passionate about empowering women in her community. In the future, Sheila hopes to leverage her passion for representing the underprivileged through a life-long career in the public sector. Some of Sheila's hobbies include reading, going to the movies, and visiting museums.
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