CREW, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) and Project South are suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for failing to turn over records of non-consensual medical procedures performed on individuals in ICE custody, including gynecological procedures that could result in sterilization or diminished fertility. The public needs a full accounting of any violations of the bodily autonomy and reproductive rights of people in ICE detention.

On September 14, 2020, Project South and other organizations filed a whistleblower complaint in which a nurse at ICE’s Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) provided horrific accounts of invasive gynecological procedures performed without consent on women detained at ICDC. The complaint also recounted numerous other non-consensual medical procedures and egregious neglect, as well as procedures being performed without access to a translator to obtain the patient’s consent.

The atrocities recounted in the complaint prompted 173 members of Congress to demand an Inspector General investigation into possible forced sterilization practices at the facilities. Further investigation by Rep. Pramila Jayapal revealed that at least 17 immigrant women had undergone forced unnecessary medical procedures. And just this week, two new reports submitted to Congress by nonpartisan investigators have underscored the severity of the mistreatment and indicated that the total number of individuals alleging misconduct may be triple what was previously reported. These reports harken back to the shameful history of forced sterilization in the United States, particularly the sterilization of people of color and incarcerated people.

“These reports harken back to the shameful history of forced sterilization in the United States, particularly the sterilization of people of color and incarcerated people.”

CREW, NIPNLG and Project South previously commenced separate FOIA investigations requesting records about these issues. ICE has failed to respond to either request. 

This would not be the first time that ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have committed grave human rights abuses, suppressed or even attempted to destroy evidence, and sought to escape any accountability for their misconduct. Led by illegally-appointed Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, the agency failed to find the parents of 545 migrant children they forcibly separated at the border, failed to fix inhumane conditions at ICE facilities despite reports of life threatening conditions, and continued to spend millions of dollars on detention facilities in direct contradiction to Congressional guidance to reduce detentions. Both ICE and U.S. Customs and Borders Protection have attempted to destroy records on complaints of human rights abuses in DHS facilities. And recent reports indicate DHS retaliating against whistleblowers with an apparently illegal “gag” order to discourage employees from reporting abuses within the agency.  DHS’s unwillingness to reign in or even investigate an agency that continues to commit atrocities on a nearly industrial scale, has led members of Congress to call on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an international investigation into ICE’s “egregious human rights abuses.” 

These are just a few examples of the abuses that ICE and DHS have committed with no accountability. Despite public outrage towards the treatment of people in ICE facilities, taxpayer dollars continue to fund an agency that has committed grave violations against immigrants’ bodily autonomy, this time in the form of forced sterilizations. ICE’s utter contempt for accountability measures, whether in responding to Congressional demands to decrease detentions or repeated attempts to destroy records documenting human right abuses, can be seen once again in the agency’s failure to release public information about abuse of people in ICE facilities. By bringing this suit, CREW, NIPNLG, and Project South seek to compel ICE to answer for its actions.

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