U.S. House condemns unnecessary medical procedures for federal detainees

Move follows whistleblower’s complaint against S. Georgia immigration detention center

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Friday passed a resolution condemning unwanted and unnecessary medical procedures performed on federal detainees, a direct response to a whistleblower’s complaint against a South Georgia immigration detention center.

The measure calls on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to comply with all investigations and records requests focused on the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla. And it asks the federal agency to “hold all individuals involved in these incidents accountable and bring them to justice.”

The House vote came after women held in Irwin told a congressional delegation last weekend that they had been forced to undergo invasive gynecological procedures and faced punishment if they complained. The women said they had been placed in solitary confinement or treated for mental illness when they reported unwanted procedures or resisted seeing the doctor who performed them.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has forcefully disputed the allegations, which were first raised by a coalition of advocacy groups and a nurse who worked at Irwin. The federal agency said only two Irwin detainees have been referred for hysterectomies since 2018. Those patients, ICE said, were referred to “certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities.”

The House resolution — it doesn’t carry the weight of law — passed Friday on a vote of 232-157, largely along party lines with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed. Four members voted “present.” Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure, though none of them are from Georgia.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, who helped organize the congressional visit to Ocilla last weekend, called for Irwin to be closed.

“It’s immoral to profit off of human suffering & misery,” he said Friday in a tweet. “This horror show must end! Shut it down NOW!”

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, the Tifton Republican whose district includes the detention center, blasted the measure Thursday. He accused Democrats of moving too quickly without waiting for the facts to come out.

“Every single one of you refused the opportunity to get the facts from the hospital administrator” where the procedures were performed, Scott said. “Never mind the facts. You wonder why people hate us up here.”